Barry Kirker, the Labour candidate for the Pakuranga electorate, has vented his frustration at the prospect of being charged $500 to do a meet-and-greet walk through at the popular Pakuranga markets.
“As a local candidate in Pakuranga I get no funds from the party at all for the election and have to meet all campaign expenses myself,” he told the Times.
He has paid for his own election hoardings and flyers.
“When I found out the Pakuranga markets have a policy of having to pay $500 for a candidate to walk through there and meet people, I was frustrated as that is something I could not possibly afford to do,” he said.
“I had hoped for (new Labour party leader) Jacinda Ardern to walk through on a visit to the electorate but that could not occur due to cost and also the fact that National Party had paid for exclusive access on that night she was most available.
Kirker believes the practice raises issues with access to information and barriers to democracy.
“The National Party can afford to pay the $500 so they are likely to be the only party that will meet local voters at that lively public-type spot. It’s like you can only access the people in certain settings if you pay.
He concedes he sent an email to the night market owners with a poorly worded sentence, “which in hindsight could have be construed as a threat, noting that ‘negative media coverage could be coming your way’.”
“I was meaning if people found out about this policy, they might be discontented and that could end up coming to the attention of the media. Neither myself or the Labour Party intended to seek media attention on this issue,” he said.
“I have since apologised to the night market guy about that offending aspect of my email.”
However he remains concerned that Pakuranga Labour is able to visit the night market unless it pays $500. “There are no plans to take this any further.”
The NZ Herald reported that market owner Paul de Jonge said the decision to have “exclusive rights” for a single political party to campaign on any given night was because parties that campaigned at the night markets before the last election were “disruptive” to business.
The cost to political parties, which is about double that of food stalls, the Herald said, includes a prime double spot with table and chairs, and all-night access for party members to mingle with the market crowd.