'Archaic' rule disadvantages election hopefuls: Gisborne councillor

5:16 pm on 14 September 2022
Gisborne councillor Tony Robinson believes people standing for council who don’t already have a profile in the community are disadvantaged by election hoarding regulations.

Gisborne councillor Tony Robinson believes people standing for council who don't already have a profile in the community are disadvantaged by election hoarding regulations. Photo: Paul Rickard / Gisborne Herald

An incumbent district councillor believes election rules disadvantage newcomers from securing a seat at the table.

First-term councillor Tony Robinson has taken exception to election hoarding rules which, under the current district plan, restrict election advertising from being put up until six weeks before election day.

For Gisborne councillors, this meant that signage could only go up from 27 August, even though nominations closed on 12 August.

Robinson said he felt that rule was unfair and inequitable.

"I think it unfairly advantages incumbents, because we have name recognition.

"We have the ability to be covered in the media for stories.

"Yet people who have decided they're going to be running for council have to wait … before they can put up a sign telling the community who they are. I think that's unfair, I think that's archaic, and I want to see that provision removed."


Robinson said the rules had been set under the district plan, which meant it was changeable but could take some time.

He wanted to see the rule changed before the next election.

"There's no rhyme or reason why people should not be able to tell the community that they intend to stand for council."

Deputy mayor Josh Wharehinga provided a different perspective, saying that several of the new councillors elected last term didn't use any billboards.

They relied on being known as hard workers in their communities, he said.

"I'd really be interested to know what the proposed changes are to help meaningfully rebalance new candidates with incumbents because I can't think of anything - other than all sitting councillors never being mentioned in the media ever."

Wharehinga said he applauded Robinson for wanting to make things fairer but a rule change would need to be in consultation with the community, and he believed most people would feel six weeks of election signs was enough.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz was approached for comment but did not respond.

Election campaigns are closely managed by the council, with rules provided to candidates at the time of nomination.

Signage is allowed to be displayed on private properties, as well as seven approved council-owned sites, and must comply with the rules set out in the district plan.

They must be removed by midnight on the day before the election.

Deputy electoral officer Heather Kohn confirmed the council had received complaints about election hoardings this election, but wouldn't say how many as they were now under investigation with the monitoring and compliance team.

The amount candidates can spend on their campaigns is set under the Local Electoral Act 2001 according to the size of the electoral population.

In Tairāwhiti, General ward candidates can spend $20,000 while Māori ward candidates are restricted to $14,000.

The election signs policy in the district plan would be reviewed in the Tairāwhiti resource management plan process, a council spokesperson said.

The upcoming election is set for 8 October, with voting papers to be sent out from 16 September.

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