Hamilton's election billboard similarities 'pure coincidence'
The man behind a series of billboards urging Hamilton ratepayers to ditch the city's incumbent councillors says the signage's similar appearance to local election material is "pure coincidence".
Hamilton businessman Ray Stark launched his campaign against the city's local body politicians in May last year with a series of "Concerned Citizen" billboards highlighting the city's debt.
He also has a website slamming city leaders and their senior staff.
But it's the coloration and style of Mr Stark's latest two billboards which have raised eyebrows around the city, with critics saying they look too similar to official Electoral Commission material.
The billboards and the local election materials both use orange, black and white font and backgrounds.
Mr Stark was aware of the similarities but said it was unintentional.
"It's definitely not deliberate. I picked it up a few weeks ago and I thought ‘Goodness gracious,' but it's a pure coincidence," he said.
"I could have made them [billboards] pink and blue, it doesn't matter to me.
"The Electoral Commission has said I've done nothing wrong and I've taken legal advice with them.
"I don't think it's an issue."
But Chris Williams, chief executive of King St Advertising, said Mr Stark's campaign could benefit by having billboards that appear similar to Electoral Commission material.
"It gives them an instant recognition and instant creditability of something that's been around for quite a long time and therefore helps get his message out," Mr Williams said.
Colour was one of the strongest triggers to brand and message recognition.
Mr Stark said he had concerns about some electoral placards appearing around the city, especially mayoral candidate Dave Macpherson's use of the Hamilton hot air balloon.
"What really irks me is these standing councillors are saying ‘let's reduce rates' yet in the last three years they've let city debt increase by $88 million.
"They need to be brought to account.
"In former days they'd be taken to Garden Place, put in stocks, and you and I would go along and throw eggs at them."
In reply, Mr Macpherson said Mr Stark's comments were "a bit rich" in light of his unwillingness to name himself on his billboards.
Mr Stark was just another millionaire trying to buy political influence, Mr Macpherson said.
"I think Kiwis have got an innate sense of fairness and they don't like people hiding behind covers, and that what's he [Mr Stark] is doing and those people who are being funded by him are doing the same.
"My billboards are paid for by myself. My father gave me a $2000 donation but apart from that I'm doing it all myself."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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