Artwork has started springing up among Whangarei's election hoardings as two mayoral candidates try a different tack in their campaigning.

Matt Keene and Ash Holwell, who are both standing for mayor under the TogetherTahi banner (Mr Keene is also standing in the Denby Ward and Mr Holwell in the Okara Ward), commissioned the artworks from Northland artists to add something unique to the campaign.

Three of the artworks went up yesterday - with more to come - and the pair had to hurriedly add the disclaimer that they were part of their campaigns to avoid falling foul of election hoarding rules, despite them not urging people to vote for them.

Mr Keene said the artworks were a great way of engaging people in the democratic process who may not have been eager to take part before.


"The idea came out of us wanting and needing to run an unconventional campaign. One of the first things we decided was that we wouldn't do political billboards. Whangarei doesn't need us contributing more visual pollution with our head shots under a slogan and a tick," he said.

"Those billboards have a life of about 10 weeks and then they're useless. And finally, getting the billboards printed and framed is bloody expensive - if getting elected to council means having the biggest campaign budget then we'll be struggling."

They did not give the artists any brief. letting them paint what they wanted.

"We think they've contributed something interesting and challenging to the campaign and hopefully their work will be seen and talked about by a lot of people. We're also not adding to the visual pollution and at the end of the campaign the art can go on someone's wall and be appreciated for a long time to come."

The artworks have already garnered a fair amount of attention and Mr Keene acknowledged that they could be attractive to thieves.

"Hopefully they won't get stolen. It's public art and that usually doesn't (get stolen) so hopefully this won't. It's a risk that the artists are aware of - but it's worth taking the risk."