The election in Auckland Council's Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa ward has turned nasty, with City Vision lodging a formal complaint alleging that rival candidate Mark Thomas has falsified his home address.
City Vision chairman Robert Gallagher said the centre-left group lodged the complaint with the Electoral Commission after discussions with a Queen's Counsel, stating that Thomas "falsely claimed to be living within the Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa ward when he registered on the New Zealand electoral roll".
Thomas strongly denies the allegation, and has levelled accusations of dirty politics at his rivals.
Anyone convicted of making a false statement in any application, certificate or information supplied under the Electoral Act faces penalties of up to three months in jail or a fine of up to $2000.
However, Gallagher said that even if Thomas was elected and subsequently convicted, he believed the offence was not serious enough to invalidate his election.
The Herald reported last week that Thomas had moved out of his $5.7 million family home in Remuera and had been sleeping on the floor in his campaign office in Dominion Rd, which he gave as his home address for the election.
"It seems that he moved his official residence to his campaign office so that he could tell voters that he lives in the area," Gallagher said.
"The voting booklet, which accompanies every voting paper, includes a statement from each candidate stating whether their principal place of residence is inside the ward or not."
The Electoral Act section 72 requires voters to register at the address "that a person makes his or her home". The Electoral Act section 74 says that a voter should have lived at their address for at least a month prior to registering to vote there.
"We think it's a stretch of credibility for Mark Thomas to claim his home for over a month was a shop with no bathroom and which was not a legal place to reside, when there was a large house a few kilometres away where his wife and children were living," Gallagher said.
"The candidate information booklet goes to every single voter with their voting papers and plays a significant role in helping voters make their choices. Being able to say you live within the ward is definitely an advantage. But voters also expect candidates to tell the truth."
However Thomas, a former National Party candidate who is standing for the centre-right Communities & Residents ticket, said he had "complied with all the requirements upon me".
"Everything I have said is accurate," he said.
"Any complaint about my residency status is without foundation."
He said his residential address was "a beltway issue" that was much less important than real local issues such as the future of Chamberlain Park and the "disaster" of the Mt Albert upgrade.
"One week into voting, turnout is below the 2013 Auckland Council record low level. City Vision is showing how out of touch it is by reaching into the Dirty Politics book of tricks that puts voters off voting rather than campaign on the issues they care about," he said.
"My connection to the ward stretches back 30 years, longer than City Vision's political leader Cathy Casey, when I first flatted in Balmoral and she was still in Scotland. Wendy and I bought our first house near Eden Terrace and I have strong connections from school sports and supporting community and environmental groups.
"To further demonstrate my commitment to the community, I opened an office in Dominion Rd at the beginning of June. I was based there for around six weeks in July and August while working on a new business and campaigning.
"The Auckland housing market problems delayed my search for an apartment, but on August 15 I moved into an apartment in Eden Terrace."