A spat has broken out between two political rivals over the use of a prominent Hamilton billboard in the lead-up to October’s council elections.
City Councillor and mayoral hopeful Rob Pascoe has accused fellow Councillor Andrew King of stymieing free speech after he rejected a request by Pascoe to hire a billboard above King’s Frankton business.
King owns several billboards on the corner of Greenwood Street and Killarney Road, as well as at other sites in the city.
Pascoe made inquiries to hire a billboard above King’s business during the month of September as part of Pascoe’s mayoral campaign.
However, his bid was rejected on the grounds the billboard was “politically incompatible” with King’s own views.
Pascoe was told King’s other billboards were also off-limits.
He has since booked billboard space in Whitiora and along Anzac Parade in Hamilton East.
“I guess it’s disappointing as I have a limited budget and booking billboards at three different sites would have given me coverage over the city,” Pascoe said.
“I feel Andrew is negating free speech by not allowing me to use his billboards. Andrew is a colleague who I respect and I don’t see us as political foes in any way at all. We don’t always agree with each other, but you would expect that in terms of robust political debate.”
King’s Greenwood St-Killarney Rd billboard was quoted about $2500 a month.
The price does not include the cost of printing the advertising sheet or “skin”, which is attached to the billboard.
Pascoe said King’s stance didn’t stop him from booking other billboards in Frankton, but it did limit his choice “and there’s also the unknown of not knowing exactly which billboards are Andrew’s.”
But King, who is widely tipped to run for the mayoralty himself, has hit back at Pascoe, saying his billboard request was a blatant publicity stunt.
King said Pascoe was misguided to believe he would consent to having political advertising above his business.
He planned to veto any requests by other political hopefuls to hire out billboards on the corner site.
“I’ve got no issue with Rob whatsoever, but he would have known I would say no to his request and I think his motivation simply was to get publicity out of it,” King said.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate to have any councillor’s name above my company’s name – it just would not be right when we’re heading into an election.”
Pascoe has confirmed retiring Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman was helping him with his mayoral bid.
Pascoe is supportive of many of Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker’s key projects, such as the Hamilton City River Plan and fast-tracking development at Hamilton Gardens.
He also voted along with a majority of councillors in early 2015 to break the city’s self- imposed debt cap of $440 million to fund infrastructure costs to meet growth.
The vote effectively split the council’s political wing into two camps and saw King accuse colleagues of breaking election promises.
King said the current council was obsessed with churning out plans with no income attached.
The central city and Frankton had been hamstrung by the council during the past six years and the city was in need of new leadership, King said.
“I don’t believe that under the current council plans, Hamilton can be great. I have got nothing personally against Rob, he’s a gentleman and an accountant, but I don’t think he’s the right man to be mayor. We need someone with charisma and with fresh ideas.”
King declined to say whether he would stand for mayor, but said he could work with Pascoe in any future council.
Photo by AARON LEAMAN. Used with permission from Stuff.co.nz