Hard News by Russell Brown

Sign Off

So Ike Finau has been given one last chance to comply with the law and take down the signs in his Grey Lynn front yard.

And in line with the Green Party's increasingly common habit of swooping on Auckland issues, Nandor Tanczos has declared it's an outrage.

Finau, a prominent member of the Water Pressure Group, has consistently flouted a local bylaw aimed at preventing visual pollution in residential areas. Nandor told the Herald he was concerned that the bylaw banned signs "for the purpose of making money, but not for the purpose of making political comment". He said he believed it was a breach of the Bill of Rights. This is extremely disingenuous of him.

The bylaw isn't there to curb free speech, but to protect residential environments. It allows a sign advertising a lawful use of a property - so the Buddhist Centre, an acupuncture practice and a home business that fixes computer printers, all in the same stretch of Warnock Street as Finau, may display a sign so people can find them.

This is merely sensible. What the bylaw prevents in residential areas is the forest of signage that has stood for several years at Finau's front fence. I am personally sick of walking my children past those unpleasant, aggressive signs.

Because there's little enough "comment" on Finau's loopy boards, and a good deal of defamatory abuse, almost exclusively directed at anyone on the centre-left (and therefore, to the right of the WPG). Thus, Bruce Hucker, Penny Sefuiva, Judith Tizard and Sandra Lee are all "liars" and must be "dumped".

If he actually got involved in local issues, instead of just putting his name on the Auckland Central ballot every three years, Nandor would know that the people being attacked don't deserve it. Nobody does, really.

The Herald's tireless local government columnist, Brian Rudman wrote a useful column on this issue last year, pointing out that councillor Sefuiva, too, had rights.

I wonder how keen Nandor would be to stick up for the principles of free speech if that kind of signage was used by, say, an anti-immigration group? Or what if it were Jeanette Fitzsimons who was subject to day-in-day-out abuse - for years - in a public place?

That's unlikely, of course. If you looked on the back of the Greens' local billboards during this year's election campaign, you would have found that they were recycled Water Pressure Group signs. The Greens aren't the first group to seek to use the WPG's undeniable energy and drive. They probably won't be the first to regret it either.

These people know no boundaries. I never agreed politically with the late Phil Raffills, and said so many times in Hard News. But what the WPG did in hounding the man, dying, at his family home, still appals me. And, of course, they then had the self-serving gall to file an assault complaint against him. You got the impression that nothing would have pleased them better than to have dragged a terminally ill man through the courts. Fortunately, the police told them to get lost.

The Water Pressure Group have shown no compunction about appealing to the law when it suits them. What they seem to be saying now is that there ought to be one set of laws for them - and one for everybody else.