A Twitter account appearing to belong to a North Island business lobby group has caused a stir online after accusing Jacinda Ardern of wanting to "destroy" Kiwi farmers.
A photo of the Labour leader was posted on the @HuttChamber account on Wednesday night, with the words: "I'm 40 years old & have never had a real job in my life. I've also got no policies, but no worries, vote for me & I'll fix every problem in your life, real or imagined. (unless you're a farmer) Let's destroy NZ's primary producers [sic]."
The account purports to belong to the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce. The controversial tweet was noticed on Thursday night, and quickly garnered dozens of outraged responses.
"I'm a member of @HuttChamber. This is a disgrace," tweeted Labour MP Trevor Mallard. "It is a lie and the majority of chamber members will be outraged by the political bias."
Others pointed out the tweet had Ms Ardern's age wrong (she's 37) and suggested the group had breached electoral laws by not including a promoter statement.
National MP Chris Bishop said the tweet was not acceptable, and he'd let the chief executive know.
Mr Mallard later said he had "spoken to the Hutt Chamber CEO. He has made it clear this is not a Chamber controlled account. The logo is dated."
The Twitter account is not presently linked to from the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce website, but appears to have been removed sometime since Wednesday night. Google's cache of the group's website - a snapshot of how it looked on Wednesday night - shows the Twitter account was still present when the tweet was posted.
The account was temporarily deleted around 7:40am on Friday morning, but quickly resurfaced, without the controversial tweet attacking Ms Ardern.
Chief executive Mark Futter told Newshub the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce didn't use Twitter, and the account was set up by a "former service provider to the chamber that was involved in our web upgrade" who holds a grudge.
"They created a profile that we were unaware of, hence the linkages, and it appears the individual has been using this for his own happy little purposes for a year or so. We've never used Twitter. We weren't terribly aware of what he was up to."
Mr Futter says the chamber notified Twitter last night, and will be making a police complaint on Friday morning.
"Twitter have been no help at all. Apparently anybody can set up a Twitter account."
Mr Futter says the chamber is "politically neutral" and will also be speaking to Ms Ardern today.
"Unfortunately the brand damage to us is quite significant... Would an organisation like ours post something like that? That's not what we're here for."
The account had been posting anti-Labour tweets and memes for several weeks. In August, it posted an animation of Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson sprinkling glitter and 'tax'. It also often retweets Mr Bishop and the National Party.