Candidates late to file election expenses face fines

11:59 am on 18 January 2020

Candidates who are yet to file their election donations and expenses returns have until the end of January before their names are forwarded to the police.

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Photo: RNZ

Seven candidates from the Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki district councils have failed to return their forms on time, which is an offence under the Local Electoral Act, and one councillor has submitted the form but failed to declare an expense.

Ōpōtiki councillor Barry Howe wrote on his donations and expenses form that he spent nothing on his campaign. He did, however, take out an advertisement in the Ōpōtiki News' election special at a cost of $242 plus GST.

Howe said he did not declare this expense due to an oversight and would not resubmit his form with an updated expenses section.

"I probably won't bother because it was only $100, $200 bucks wasn't it?" he said.

Howe's advert in the paper stated that a "vote for Barry is a vote for transparency, accountability, affordability and sensibility in council".

Electoral officer Dale Ofsoske said it was an offence to submit a false return, but the penalty was harsher if a candidate knowingly submited a false return compared to where a candidate had no intention to mis-state or conceal facts and the candidate took all reasonable steps to ensure the information was accurate.

"If a mistake was made, a candidate is able to correct their return," said Ofsoske.

Ofsoske said candidates legally had until 13 December to return their forms but were being given a "little leeway" until mid-January. However, if these candidates had not returned their forms by 31 January they would be forwarded to the police. Candidates could then face a fine of up to $1000.

As of Tuesday, the late candidates included Maria Keepa from Ōpōtiki, Pouroto Ngaropo, Hans Tiakiwai, Ged Casey, Dee-Dayna Hale-Riddiford, Les Knowles and April O'Brien from Whakatāne.

Whakatāne Murupara-Galatea Community Board member O'Brien said she had been side-tracked with life including a new job and a young family but would be getting her form in very soon.

O'Brien said this was her first time completing the process and she was unsure about what to do as there was little guidance after candidates were elected. O'Brien said she spent nothing on her campaign.

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