Is this legal? Northland candidates Shane Jones, Matt King scrap over 'Jones for Jobs' billboards

Correction: The Far North District Council CEO has since admitted there are rules against the billboards after previously saying there wasn't.

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones has been accused of putting up "illegal" election advertising in Northland by his National Party opponent - but the local council has found no issue. 

National's Matt King, MP for Northland, made the remark in the comment section of a promotional Facebook post he uploaded to his page earlier this week. 

Jones is running against King for the Northland electorate, and in the comment section a woman asked King to "get more signage" up in the region because she was not keen on seeing Jones' "mugshot" around Kerikeri. 

Is this legal? Northland candidates Shane Jones, Matt King scrap over 'Jones for Jobs' billboards

King, referring to election advertising of Jones already up on private land in Kerikeri, replied to the comment saying: "It's actually illegal to put election hoardings up until 18 July so we are sticking to the law." 

But the Electoral Commission had a different take. 

"The short answer is that it's okay for hoardings to be up now if the local council allows it," said Clare Pasley, senior communications advisor at the Electoral Commission.

"Election advertising may be published at any time, except on election day. This means election hoardings can be put up at any time, subject to the rules the local council has in place."

She said local councils are responsible for regulating when, where and how election signs can be displayed. 

NZ First MP Shane Jones' 'Jones for Jobs' billboard in Kerikeri.
NZ First MP Shane Jones' 'Jones for Jobs' billboard in Kerikeri. Photo credit: Supplied

"As the rules may vary between each local authority, the Electoral Act allows election signs that are up to three square metres in size to be put up anywhere in the country from 18 July, subject to any council's application process and rules about where they can be put up."

A spokesperson for King pointed to those Electoral Act rules and said because the election is 10 weeks away King's claim was correct. 

But Newshub went to the Far North District Council - the authority overseeing the town of Kerikeri - and CEO Shaun Clarke did not find that any rules had been broken. 

"The Electoral Act governs private land use... It carries stipulations on hoardings that apply within nine weeks of elections. It is silent, however, on the period preceding nine weeks to go and the inference is that local body bylaws and policies then apply," he said. 

"There are no active bylaws or policies which would restrict early hoardings on private land in the Far North District." 

Jones told Newshub he's confident the rules were followed.

"I am assured by the Electoral Commission that we have followed all the rules. I have been accused of breaking the law by Matt King. I'm going to send him the rules around electioneering and I'll give him the bilingual version."

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