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Complaint over Christchurch mayor's campaign

Author
Nathan Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 29 Nov 2022, 10:36am
According to Campbell, online posts showed Mauger giving away "thousands" of RAT kits to the community. Photo / George Heard
According to Campbell, online posts showed Mauger giving away "thousands" of RAT kits to the community. Photo / George Heard

Complaint over Christchurch mayor's campaign

Author
Nathan Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 29 Nov 2022, 10:36am

Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger’s campaign trail is under the microscope by election officials, after a complaint was submitted to the Christchurch Electoral Officer claiming Mauger broke the rules by “treating” potential voters.

The complaint was laid by Aaron Campbell, who was campaign secretary for Mauger’s closest opposition - David Meates. It was submitted in September, while the mayoral campaign was ongoing.

Campbell said it originated from online social media posts showing Mauger handing out “thousands” of RAT’s to the public during meetings.

According to Campbell, the posts showed him going to community groups and giving away the tests, at one stage reportedly being thanked by community members for his donation.

Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger and chief executive Dawn Baxendale. Photo / Christchurch CIty Council

Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger and chief executive Dawn Baxendale. Photo / Christchurch CIty Council

“With my campaign experience, I felt it needed questioning,” said Campbell.

“When it’s one or two posts about it, I made a note of it and wasn’t too worried about it, but it was a pattern of behaviour.”

Campbell also submitted a complaint against Halswell ward candidate Paul Lonsdale - who he claimed did the same as Mauger by donating a number of RATs to the community.

“The candidates shouldn’t be doing this as candidates, it comes down to election integrity and that’s the question at the end of the day.”

Campbell said candidates had been made aware of election rules at a series of information evenings, hosted before the 2022 local elections began.

“A simple example was given on the evening - if a candidate prints a pen with their name on it, they can’t give it away.”

Christchurch City Council’s electoral officer, Jo Daly, confirmed she’d received two complaints in relation to treating during the campaign - which is when a candidate gives material incentives to people in exchange for votes.

Christchurch City Council’s electoral officer, Jo Daly, confirmed she’d received two complaints in relation to treating during the campaign. Photo / George Heard

Christchurch City Council’s electoral officer, Jo Daly, confirmed she’d received two complaints in relation to treating during the campaign. Photo / George Heard

“The candidate guidance recommends candidates don’t give any gifts, or anything along those lines during the campaign,” she said.

The two complaints received by the electoral officer were for different candidates.

Daly wouldn’t give the names of those in question but said both were referred to the police in accordance with Section 138.

The section states police will handle an election complaint that can’t be rectified by the officer, who will themselves tackle minor issues like electoral billboard disputes.

Lonsdale said he couldn’t comment on the complaints as the investigation was ongoing. A spokesperson from Mauger’s campaign team also said they wouldn’t comment.

“But we are very confident the campaign has not breached any treating rules,” the spokesperson said.

The police said they were not yet aware of any complaints relating to the election at this stage.

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