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The Labour Party's Taupō candidate, Ala' Al-Bustanji, says the repeated theft and vandalism of Labour's election billboards is anti-democracy and goes against the rules of respectful campaigning.

Mr Al-Bustanji has around 70 billboards up around the Taupō electorate and last Saturday night 10 of the signs in Taupō town were stolen or vandalised.

One of them was the only billboard removed from a fence in Taharepa Rd, Taupō, which has six other political billboards displayed. Mr Al-Bustanji says that makes it clear that it is Labour billboards that are being singled out.

"Everywhere they just cut them with a sharp knife and took them away," Mr Al-Bustanji says.

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"It's very, very upsetting because this is my only chance for others to see who I am. It's against democracy and it's theft and we've been targeted, it's very obvious ... It's an anti-Labour thing, definitely."

Of the seven candidate signs at the Taharepa Rd/Kiddle Dr roundabout, Mr Al-Bustanji's was the only one stolen last Saturday night. Photo / Laurilee McMichael
Of the seven candidate signs at the Taharepa Rd/Kiddle Dr roundabout, Mr Al-Bustanji's was the only one stolen last Saturday night. Photo / Laurilee McMichael

Any sign with Mr Al-Bustanji's photograph on it is paid for out of his campaign funds, while the ones that feature Labour leader Jacinda Ardern alone are paid for by the Labour Party.

Mr Al-Bustanji says of the signs he has placed around Taupō, more than half have gone missing and others have been vandalised.

It's not the first time this has happened - Mr Al-Bustanji has already had to replace some signs which were drawn on earlier in the campaign. This time, where the signs were free-standing, the frames have been left behind. But where the signs have been stapled directly on to fences, they have been stolen.

Taupo electorate Labour Party candidate Ala' Al-Bustanji (right) putting up campaign signs with billboards co-ordinator Peter Forster (in orange vest) and John Squire (left).
Taupo electorate Labour Party candidate Ala' Al-Bustanji (right) putting up campaign signs with billboards co-ordinator Peter Forster (in orange vest) and John Squire (left).

Mr Al-Bustanji says there's a risk also that if the signs reappear on Election Day, he will be breaching the electoral rules, which dictate that there must be no political advertising that day. Traditionally, election signs are removed the night before. Mr Al-Bustanji has contacted the Electoral Commission to alert it to the stolen signs.

Mr Al-Bustanji says that as a rule Taupō locals are very respectful of the democratic process so the attack on the signs is out of character for the local community.

"People have made comments and contacted me and also people who are not Labour Party supporters have contacted me to say it's not something that they tolerate at all and it's unacceptable."

He was planning to report the thefts and vandalism to Taupō police.

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