Former Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio spent thousands of dollars supporting a team he wanted to see at the council table.
Public election donation and spending documents show Mr Miccio gave donations to Mike Ward, Pete Rainey, Derek Shaw, Kent Robertson, Colleen Marshall, Kate Fulton, Ruth Copeland, and Tim Skinner.
"It's a team strategy of mutual endorsement of each other so that is why I chose it because we were a group of people who had bonded together for the last three years and we believed in what we were trying to achieve," said Mr Miccio, who lost the mayoral race to Rachel Reese.
"We were all delivering the same messages to the public as a group."
The donations were "in kind", meaning they were donations of "labour and discounted goods and services" in this case for shared advertising.
Mr Miccio said the shared expenses were approved by an electoral officer before the campaigning started.
He spent $26,979 on his mayoral campaign, not much more than Ms Reese who spent $26,817.
Mayoral candidate Brian McGurk spent $11,520 for his bid while candidate Richard Osmaston spent just $241.
Mr Miccio denied the donations were a way for him to get his name out there without exceeding the $30,000 spending cap each candidate is allowed.
"Not at all," he said.
"If anything it probably waters it down so you are not actually focusing on yourself or any individuals, it's a group thing.
Mr Miccio believed in the councillors he supported and wanted to see them back in council.
It was mutually beneficial to run the campaign by pooling resources.
The strategy had been used in the 2007 election with the "Hands Up" campaign where candidates were supported by the Nelson business and legal community as a group to get into the council.
But there was confusion among those Mr Miccio supported about how it was listed in their donations and expenses forms.
Some listed it as a donation, others mentioned it as an expense, and others did not report it.
Councillor Ruth Copeland said the strategy was not about creating a bloc, but "just the sweeties here who want to keep upping the ante and making Nelson free and a more open enjoyable and liberal place".
She said they were "very, very keen" to see Mr Miccio stay as mayor, but she did not think her independence was compromised by sharing the advertising costs and supporting his position.
She had not listed Mr Miccio as giving her a donation and could not understand why others involved in the group had listed it, despite Mr Miccio saying he had given her a donation.
She instead thought everyone had allocated funds to a pool, which would support Mr Miccio's efforts.
Councillor Tim Skinner said he had supported both Ms Reese and Mr Miccio in their mayoral bids as he thought they were both good candidates.
But Mr Miccio had approached him and asked him if he wanted to be included in his campaigning.
Councillor Pete Rainey said there was nothing to hide as they were "pretty transparent in what we were doing" and there was no donation of cash as the money went to a pool from which they shared costs.
It had not been about creating some kind of dream team.
"We shared resources in terms of promoting ourselves and in our support of him as mayoral candidate." Mr Rainey said.
"We made it relatively quite clear during the campaign that we were united in our support for Aldo as mayoral candidate, but we certainly had a pretty diverse group of political views.
"We were very clear that not all of us agreed with each other on everything." Mr Miccio said he had separate donations for his own advertising and the money he gave the councillors was from him personally. The biggest spenders were the mayoral candidates followed by Matt Lawrey, Tim Skinner, Colin Robertson, Ruth Copeland, and Trudie Brand.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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