Conservative Party leader Colin Craig says his campaign team has begun swapping out billboards to replace those featuring a "stern and serious" image of his face to new ones with "smiley face Colin".

"It was always our intention to change out our billboards but we had a very interesting discussion in our campaign team as to whether we would keep the determined stern look or whether we would go for a more smiley more normal Colin look."

He said some in his team favoured the original more intense image because it was serious or "provocative".

"Some people are unsure. One person said, because my billboard's opposite where they live, they said, 'It's very strange having you staring into our living room every night'."


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Others thought the new picture was a better reflection of Mr Craig, "because I'm most of the time a smiley and effervescent individual".

"One person said, 'You're going up in the polls you'd better jolly well be smiling'."

The Conservative Party's regional coordinators had been given the choice of both versions, and some including Palmerston North had chosen the original image, but "most other regions will have the smiley faces".

Commenting on the numerous unauthorised alterations to his billboards, Mr Craig said: "Frankly people have had fun with them and that's not a bad thing."

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Of the altered billboards, Mr Craig said one where he was shown Carmen Miranda style with fruit on his head and garish make-up on his face was popular with many people but his favourite was one where he'd been made to look like a vampire.

"They did the big cloak and the hood behind my head and then I think they had the eyes in red. People have gone to a huge amount of effort to be creative and you've got to admire it."