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Communications re extension of deadline to remove election signage

Chris Milne made this Official Information request to Hutt City Council

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From: Chris Milne

Dear Hutt City Council, the LGOIMA request is contained within this message:

Dear Ms Miller (CEO)

Re: Signage directive – Hutt City Council Elections

I am writing to you in my capacity as an elected member responsible for the good governance of Hutt City Council.

As far as this election is concerned, I am not standing for election and I am therefore disinterested.

The Candidate Handbook, issued months ago, for prospective candidates says, without any qualification, that election hoarding signage must be taken down by 12 noon today, Friday 7 October 2022. I understand that an email was sent to candidates by a junior staff member shortly after noon yesterday, with slightly under 24 hours to go, advising them that hoardings need only be removed by 12 noon tomorrow.

Earlier that day at least one team of candidates began removing their signs and one of the candidates put a photograph up on Facebook at around 10.30am with a comment that even in sleet the hoardings were coming down.

Bruce Hodgins, the Council’s Electoral Officer, when contacted late yesterday, advised that he knew nothing about the email.

Legally, Mr Hodgins, alone, is responsible for running a fair election. He acts independently of any candidate and the Council. Appearance is almost as important as reality when it comes to fair elections and impartiality. The email “from management”, circumventing Mr Hodgins, raises questions.

Mr Hodgins reports to you. I am writing to you, as Councillors’ sole employee, to request that you instruct Mr Hodgins urgently to act in accordance with the words of the Candidate Handbook – these are the rules of the election, nothing more, nothing less. This matter is very urgent.

It is possible that some contests will be decided by slim margins. In my time on Council I have seen three ward elections decided by less than 20 votes. Should such a close result occur on this occasion then this election signage email may become an unwelcome focus of attention. Who is to say that an extra 24 hours signage exposure might not have made a difference?

While it may the practice of the Council to be lenient towards candidates who, for whatever reason, are unable to get all their signs down by the deadline, it is quite another matter for an official email to be sent with less than 24 hours to go, after some candidates have started to remove their signs, formally extending the deadline.

Such a late email is an artibitrary variation of the rules and, as such, is quite unlike what might be established practice regarding enforcement and subsequent action where some signs are not removed in time.

Such a variation, through a poor process that excluded the Council’s Electoral Officer, raises questions about which candidates may have been adversely affected or preferred, and therefore the impartiality of the Council’s statutory duties to oversee a fair election process.

I look forward to hearing from you urgently regarding the above.

I request under LGOIMA the following:

1. All correspondence within Hutt City Council and from Hutt City Council about the time extension regarding hoarding removal.
2. All correspondence, texts or any other messages received by anyone at Hutt City Council about the email on Thursday 6th or Friday 7th October 2022.
3. Information identifying who made the decision.
4. When the decision was made.
5. When the decision was communicated to candidates
6. How the decision was communicated to candidates
7. Whether all candidates were contacted at the same time.

Best regards,
Chris Milne

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From: Information Management Team
Hutt City Council

Tēnā koe Chris

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION - LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL INFORMATION AND MEETINGS ACT 1987: ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF REQUEST

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your official information request dated 7 October 2022, for information about Hutt City Council extending the deadline for removal of election hoardings.

We will endeavour to respond to your request as soon as possible and in any event no later than 20 working days after the day your request was received. If we are unable to respond to your request by then, we will notify you of an extension of that timeframe.

Please note that our response to your information request may be published on Hutt City Council’s website.

Nāku noa, nā

Susan Sales
Senior Advisor, Official Information

Hutt City Council, 30 Laings Road, Private Bag 31912, Lower Hutt 5040, New Zealand
W www.huttcity.govt.nz

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From: venILECM

Hello Chris Milne,

Thank you for your Request for Information submission, it has been received by Hutt City Council and is currently being reviewed.

Your request has been classified as a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) request.

If you'd like to follow up on this, please ensure you quote the following:

* Request: Chris Milne - Deadline for removal of local body election signage
* Subject: Deadline for removal of local body election signage
* Reference #: 280
* Date of submission: 2022-10-10T03:35:10Z

Yours sincerely,

Hutt City Council

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From: Information Management Team
Hutt City Council


Attachment Chris Milne Election hoardings LGOIMA response.pdf
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Kia ora Chris

Please find attached Hutt city council's response to your information request of 7 October 2022, relating to local body election hoardings.

Ngā mihi
 
Susan Sales
Ringa Āwhina Tāhūhū ki Te Koromatua | Senior Advisor
Te Kaunihera o Te Awa Kairangi | Hutt City Council, 30 Laings Road, Private Bag 31912, Lower Hutt 5040, New Zealand
Paetukutuku: www.huttcity.govt.nz

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