Friday, January 11, 2008

Election billboard attacks grow

Nelson Mail
Last updated 12:02 01/11/2008



Attacks on election billboards continue to be a problem for Nelson and West Coast-Tasman candidates, some of whom cannot replace their hoardings.

Most candidates or campaign managers spoken to by the Nelson Mail either had billboards knocked down or stolen during the past week.

Supporters of Labour's West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor say all his billboards from Mapua to Motueka were stolen this week, just before Prime Minister Helen Clark visited Motueka.

Ruby Bay woman Chrissie Small said both the Damien O'Connor billboards on her property went missing early in the week.

Another supporter of Mr O'Connor, Riwaka woman Chris Holmwood, said she feared the stolen billboards would be re-erected on election day which is against electoral law in a bid to damage Mr O'Connor.

Mr O'Connor's campaign manager, John Kennedy, said that while he did not know about the stolen Tasman hoardings, one billboard had been defaced in Greymouth during Labour weekend.

He put it down to "bored young people" and did not think it was politically motivated.

Labour list MP and Nelson candidate Maryan Street said attacks on her billboards were "vicious" as people had smashed her hoardings around Nelson.

"I think it's just probably young hoons", she said.

Nelson MP, National's Nick Smith, had nine billboards damaged this week around Tahunanui, Atawhai and Stoke.

While the lighter type of graffiti, such as glasses painted on his face, was part of the "argy-bargy" of electioneering, swastikas continued to be pasted on his billboards, which Dr Smith said was most offensive.

The damage to his billboards had cost about $4000 to date, he said.

Green Party Nelson convener Thomas Forrow said seven of the Greens' billboards around Nelson had disappeared over Labour weekend.

The party could not afford to replace them.

One Green Party billboard had been damaged in the West Coast-Tasman electorate since the beginning of the campaign.

Kiwi Party Nelson candidate Robin Westley had one billboard knocked down and another stolen in Nelson over Labour weekend.

He said he would not replace the stolen sign as he feared for the property owner's safety if it was a malicious attack.

ACT Nelson candidate Paul Hufflett had one billboard on Rocks Rd defaced earlier in the week, but did not plan on taking any action over it, saying he would rather "keep smiling and keep replacing".

National list MP and West Coast-Tasman candidate Chris Auchinvole had one board attacked in Westport over Labour weekend and another stolen earlier in the week from Greymouth.
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Other candidates reported no damage, did not have billboards erected, or could not be reached for comment.