Election-hoarding vandalism unprecedented
Political hoardings are being destroyed in unprecedented numbers across Palmerston North, causing frustration for campaigns on both sides of the fence.
Palmerston North National Party stalwart and former candidate Malcolm Plimmer said more than 100 of his party's signs had been defaced or destroyed in the first weeks of the election campaign.
Party volunteers were out removing and replacing damaged signs yesterday, something Plimmer said was a regular occurrence.
Vandalism of signs came with the territory when campaigning, he said. However the hoarding damage this year was greater than he had seen in his 47 years of political campaigns.
Plimmer said the defacing of National's billboards seemed to be deliberate and organised and not just acts of random vandalism.
"[Signs are] part of the democratic process, we have a right to campaign, people should value that."
Palmerston North Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said he had seen more vandalism already, seven weeks out from the election, than during either of his two previous campaigns.
"There is a lot of vandalism of the signs going on and we seem to be losing them rather than them being defaced."
Lees-Galloway said vandalism happened for many reasons.
Some people would be targeting campaigns, he said, others would just be walking past a sign and decide to pull it down. "We've never had any evidence of an orchestrated attack on our signs."
He suggested a novel punishment for anyone caught defacing signs. "If vandals spent time on a campaign they'd appreciate the effort that goes into it."
Palmerston North National candidate Jono Naylor was less concerned than Plimmer and called the vandalism of signs an "occupational hazard" on campaigning.
He did take issue with the nature of some of the vandalism, however. "Some of the graffiti is distasteful. A swastika over the prime minister, knowing his mother had to flee the German persecution of Jews, is atrocious, that really is quite distasteful."
The display of election hoardings is permitted up to the night before the election on September 20.
Meanwhile a website has been set up to catalogue the damage wrought to billboards around the country.
The site, nzbillboards.tumblr.com, has been posting submitted pictures of damaged campaign hoardings since July 27, including a handful of Manawatu cases.