15 Nov 2011

Green Party member resigns over billboard attacks

6:52 pm on 15 November 2011

The man who orchestrated the defacing of National Party billboards has quit the Green Party while his partner has been stood down as executive assistant to Greens' co-leader Russel Norman.

Stickers carrying slogans such as 'The Rich Deserve More' and 'Drill it! Mine it! Sell it!' were plastered on hundreds of the billboards over the weekend.

The action was organised by Green Party member Jolyon White, whose partner Anne Heins is executive assistant to Dr Norman.

Ms Heins has been stood down from her job on full pay while Parliamentary Services investigates.

Mr White told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme it would be "incredibly unfortunate" if his partner lost her job.

He said when he mentioned the idea for the billboard attack some time ago, his partner said that was something she could have nothing to do with, and no involvement.

Russel Norman told the programme the issue was whether the information should have been passed on to him.

"(Anne Heins) is not held to account for what her partner does, the issue is about the employment relationship and the responsibility of employees towards protecting their employers from potential damage."

Greens' co-leader named man behind attacks

Dr Norman made a statement to media at 10.30am on Tuesday, in which he said he'd had no knowledge of the vandalism in advance and had only found out who was involved about an hour-and-a-half earlier.


He said several Green Party members recognised Mr White's voice in his interview with Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that morning and contacted party officials.

The co-leader said his assistant had known what was being planned for a couple of months, but was not involved in planning or actioning them. However he says she should have been aware of the political implications.

"If I had known what was going on then I would have done something about it, but I found out about it this morning."

The Greens' co-leader said the party does not support the vandalism of billboards and he has apologised to National Party leader John Key, the National Party and its volunteers.

He said the vandalism was the action of individuals, not the Green Party, and as far as he is aware no party funds or networks were involved, but says he is incredibly disappointed given the party's preference for a clean campaign.

The party's co-convenor Roland Sapsford said Mr White phoned him on Tuesday afternoon to say that he did not personally resile from anything he had done but regretted any impact it had had on the Green Party.

"He certainly hadn't intended to bring the Green Party into this in any way and he felt that it was appropriate to resign."

National lodges complaint

National has lodged a complaint with the Electoral Commission and is still to decide whether a complaint will be laid with the police.

Party leader John Key says he accepts that Dr Norman did not know in advance about plans to deface the billboards.

He described the attack as very frustrating and disappointing for National's volunteers and candidates.

Mr Key said Dr Norman apologised to him on Tuesday and offered the support of Green Party members to clean up the billboards.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow says the cost is still being tallied and a decision will be made within a day about whether a separate complaint will be laid with the police.