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Pre-election Communications

What gave rise to my post of 9 June did not pass un-noticed in the august office of the Auditor General.

There was a very strong warning given at the 12 June Audit Committee meeting that I reported in the post following that meeting. This has now ben followed up with papers to Board meeetings and again to full Council this Wednesday. This paper sets out quite clearly what is expected of councils leading up to electiuons, and the risks that they run by infringing these rules.

Note 4.48 in the attachment wherein it is stated that "mass communications facilities such as Council funded newsletters, and mayoral or members columns in Council publicatiuons should be suspeded during a pre-election period."

Note also in the footnote that "By 'pre-election period' we mean three months before the close of polling day. However a Council may decide to apply restrictions over a longer period."

The publication of advertorials in the Hauraki Herald was so blatant that even these restrictions may have been breached, and clearly the Auditor General representative was sufficiently concerned to have made a direct reference to both "electioneering", and "embellishment" in his address to the Committee.

What would have concerned him is the fact that a substantial breach under Section 4 of the Local Elections Act can give rise to an "irregularity" that may result in an election result being overturned, And let it be known that such an outcome has occured in the past in Aukuso v. Hutt City Council (District Court, Lower Hut, MA 88/03, 17 December 2003).

In particular, the Chief Executive's claim of $9m reduction in borrowing between disparate dates, that turned out to be $3m may well be described as an "embellishment", and/or "irregularity."




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