4 Jun 2016

Election billboards must go, Akl Council says

9:46 am on 4 June 2016

A row over election advertising has revived with the Auckland Council again ordering the removal of billboards for mayoral candidate Vic Crone.

One of the billboards for Auckland mayoral candidate Vic Crone that has been taken down near Parnell.

This billboard for Auckland mayoral candidate Vic Crone near Parnell is among those which have been removed. Photo: Go Media

The removals have come as the Minister for Transport awaits legal advice on whether the council's new bylaw is lawful.

Auckland Council in April ordered Ms Crone to remove advertising from two commercial billboard sites, which for the first time came under restrictions that used to apply only to hoardings on public land.

Under the restrictions, the earliest time election material is allowed to be carried is 6 August - nine weeks before voting ends in October.

More on the election signs bylaw on the Auckland Council's website

Ms Crone said a second round of billboard advertising near inner-city Parnell had suffered the same fate.

"I could put advertising on the back of a bus and that would be fine, but a commercial billboard apparently is not fine," she told RNZ News.

"I don't understand that, it doesn't make sense, and I don't think it's in the interest of the public in terms of understanding who's running for mayor and it certainly doesn't support freedom of speech."

In April, RNZ News raised the question over whether the bylaw's new restrictions limited freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act.

Minister of Transport Simon Bridges is awaiting legal advice on the matter after considering a letter from council agency Auckland Transport, which created the bylaw.

The council issued a statement saying it was acting on a complaint and that the billboards breached the Election Signs Bylaw, a view supported by Electoral Officer Dale Ofsoske.

"Like others we are awaiting guidance from the minister," the council statement said.

"However Auckland Council has no discretion to decide not to enforce the bylaw while it remains in force."