John Key's knowledge of ads raises questions

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 10:20 04/09/2014
John Key and David Cunliffe
Dean Kozanic/FAIRFAX NZ

RAISES QUESTIONS: John Key referred to an upcoming advertising supplement in newspaper during The Press' leaders debate on Tuesday.

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A Christchurch commercial real estate company has been dragged into political controversy after Prime Minister John Key used its plans for a big advertising campaign to score political points.

During The Press leaders debate on Tuesday, Key referred to an upcoming advertising supplement in The Press to rebut a question from editor Joanna Norris about progress on the rebuild stalling.

"Your newspaper, either this week or probably now next week, is going to deliver in the newspaper a very big supplement, that's going to sell I'm sure extremely well, which points out there are two hundred buildings in the CBD alone that are basically completed."

Key was referring to an advertising promotion by commercial real estate firm Colliers which is due to run in The Press before the election.

His knowledge of the advertising campaign has raised questions about whether it would advantage National in the lead up to the election.

Norris, who moderated the debate, confirmed Key's comments had caused Fairfax to seek advice on whether the promotion could fall foul of the election spending rules within the Electoral Act.

Third-party advertising is restricted under that act.

"My concern was that by raising it in the context of an election debate it may stray into an election advertisement. I needed to be certain it was considered in that context."

Colliers managing director Hamish Doig said the company was seeking its own legal advice because it did not consider the supplement to be political.

"We're just waiting for some advice at the moment as to whether we're going to be caught up in this thing. The reality is we've got a city rebuild going on and we've got a lot of commercial pressure to go and get the correct message out to people; they're keen to know what is happening in the city and there's a lot of misinformation out there."

Doig said the supplement had not been planned with the election date in mind and the only reason for trying to get the supplement published quickly was because of commitments made to contributors.

Being caught up by third- party advertising laws was "something I was totally unaware of"', Doig said.

"It's got no political content in it. It doesn't support Labour, it doesn't support National, it's purely a factual statement from various tenants who are going back into the city."

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