The vandalisation of hundreds of election billboards feels like a targeted campaign, Te Pāti Māori says.
A driver careened though a farm fence to flatten a billboard featuring co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, near Parihaka in Taranaki. In Northland, one featuring co-leader Rawiri Waititi had the word 'raciest' (sic) spraypainted on it.
Ngarewa-Packer said it was sad that some people were so triggered by the billboards, which went up last week.
"They are clearly at war inside themselves with what our billboards are triggering. The attacks and the sport that's been unleashed on them is really frightening.
"They've just been targeted to the point where it's sadly become almost an anti-Māori sport."
She said the signs had been designed with a positive message in mind.
"They are nice billboards, they're not old-school, they've been well thought-out, they're not provocative. They are actually really beautiful, peaceful and they are promoting a peaceful new way forward - Aotearoa Hou."
Ngarewa-Packer said 15 billboards in her Te Tai Hauāuru electorate had been attacked or gone missing and more than 100 across Tāmaki Makaurau and Waiariki. On some, her moko kauae had been defaced.
"We've got another one that we've just had this morning that I'm waiting to have confirmed, where my moko kauae has been whitened out - which I experienced last time."
She did not know who was doing the vandalism, but she knew why, she said.
"And the why is that we are proudly Māori, and proudly promoting our reo and promoting a tangata whenua indigenous party, so it's just triggered some people."
The vandalism also came at a monetary cost to the party, she said.
"I have a really small budget, and every time we invest in repairing signs that gets taken [out of] the campaign budget, so it will get to the point where we'll have to make decisions on whether we can afford to replace them."
Ngarewa-Packer said in Auckland, $9000 had been donated to replace damaged or stolen billboards. She said the incident in Parihaka was particularly concerning.
"When we got the gist of that one last night, it gave us a shock. No one should be that angry and that triggered by those billboards that you've got to drive through somebody's property and create that kind of violence in your mind, that you are so angry you want to wreck your car and wreck someone's fence."
Parihaka Block resident Urs Signer did not mince his words.
"Some racist egg drove their truck over some native trees, through our fence and into our paddock where a sheep is grazing in order to destroy a billboard by Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, MP from the Māori Party.
"This is coastal Taranaki in 2023 where some colonialists are still at war - at war with Māori, at war with the environment and at war with themselves."
He said more and more people were supporting co-governance, supporting hapū and iwi tino rangatiratanga and Te Tiriti justice, "But racism is definitely alive and well here in coastal Taranaki and it's not okay."