Labour MP Tāmati Coffey has election billboards vandalised, says he may be 'target of hate campaign'

Tāmati Coffey is offering a reward for information on vandals who damaged election hoardings in his Waiariki electorate so he can "get them out of the way".

The Labour MP, who wrestled the Māori seat off Te Ururoa Flavell at the 2017 election, has laid complaints with police over the vandalism and is awaiting access to CCTV footage from near some of the billboards. 

Photos posted to Facebook show a handful of Coffey's hoardings knocked over, with posts ripped out of the ground. At least one was missing the billboard entirely.

Coffey said his supporters had been out in force to help repair the billboards on Thursday.

"Sadly, my amazing volunteers, who are spread all around the Bay of Plenty, of all ages, have been busy today repairing my billboards," he wrote in a Facebook post.

One of the photos showed Coffey's billboard partially knocked over, while a hoarding featuring his rival Rawiri Waititi, a Māori Party candidate, remains untouched.

"I'm not sure if I'm the target of a hate campaign," Coffey said, "but it's not nice, especially for my volunteers."

Coffey said he wants those to identify the people responsible so he can "get them out of the way and deal with the real issues affecting our whanau". 

"I'll offer a reward to anyone with any proof of who these people are that are targeting my boards," he said. "In the words of our PM Jacinda Ardern, be kind."

While it's still early in the election campaign, billboards have already caused controversy.

Earlier in July, New Zealand First MP Shane Jones was accused of putting up illegal election advertising in Northland by National Party opponent Matt King.

King alleged Jones had put the hoardings up too early, breaching the Electoral Commission rules that say election billboards cannot be put up until July 18.

The Far North District Council initially said the billboards didn't break its bylaws, but later clarified to Newshub that it got it wrong, and they did.

Jones was forced to take the hoardings down before erecting them again a week later.