31 Jul 2017

Auckland Transport backs off hoardings ruling

11:58 am on 31 July 2017

A contentious bylaw that restricted some election billboard advertising in Auckland looks set to be relaxed.

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

One of the billboards for Auckland mayoral candidate Vic Crone that had to be taken down near Parnell. Ms Crone later lost the mayoral race to Phil Goff by more than 73,000 votes. Photo: Go Media

Auckland Transport is recommending its board tomorrow remove the time restriction on local body election advertising on private sites, acknowledging it may breach the Bill of Rights.

RNZ News last year highlighted the possible illegality of the bylaw amendment during the local body election campaign, prompting ministerial intervention.

Mayoral candidate Vic Crone was ordered to remove advertising from permanent commercial billboard sites, because they were outside a nine-week season imposed in a bylaw tweak in 2014.

Private sites had been unregulated but Auckland Transport tightened its bylaw on election signs in 2014.

It applied the same nine-week campaign advertising restriction, traditionally only affecting hoardings on public land, to commercial and private sites.

The council agency last year sought legal advice which suggested a possible breach of the Bill of Rights, and it now says the time restriction should be removed to ensure the bylaw complies with freedom of expression law.

Auckland Transport's rationale for the original change, which was decided by a hearings panel, was that different rules for different types of land led to confusion.

It also said the change avoided private sites "leading to unnecessary visual distraction".

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