Man behind Luxon National Party leadership ad broke law - expert

A Christchurch man who spent tens of thousands of dollars on a newspaper ad calling for Christopher Luxon to lead the National Party may find himself on the wrong side of electoral law.

The half-page ad appeared in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, suggesting the outgoing Air New Zealand CEO should run for the National Party leadership for next year's election.

It plays on Dick Frizzell's well-known 1997 artwork Mickey to Tiki but shows John Key's face transforming into Luxon's.

Neither Luxon nor the National Party know anything about it, but the ad has an authorisation statement from S Brooks of Christchurch.

Newshub tried to make contact with a 'Steve Brooks', an entrepreneur and businessman who was a self-made millionaire by 19 - but Brooks was nowhere to be found.

His Facebook page was emblazoned with support for Luxon to run for the National Party this morning. But by the afternoon, it was all taken down.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards believes the ad is illegal and a breach of the electoral act.

"Because you do actually have to get sign off from the National Party if you're going to promote a National Party advertisement and that's what this is, this is clearly promoting the National Party in terms of the 2020 election, it has the hashtag on it," he told Newshub.

The Electoral Commission confirmed today its legal team will be investigating - particularly the authorisation issue.

And an Air New Zealand spokesperson said Luxon hadn't seen the ad before Newshub enquired about it and had absolutely no knowledge of how it came about.

Luxon announced this week he was standing down from the top job at Air New Zealand and said a future in politics could be on the cards.

Edwards says this ad is indicative of an appetite for change at the top of the party.

"It indicates that I think there is some excitement on the political right about the fact that finally National might have inspiring or maybe electable leader because ever since John Key went, National has struggled with its leadership," he told Newshub.

According to the Herald's advertising rates it cost over $22,000 to put this ad in today's paper.

Legal or not, that's high stakes and clearly high hopes for political change.