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Waimak electorate’s Who is Who?

Waimak electorate’s Who is Who?

By Glen Prowse
10 August, 2014

Labour Party list MP Clayton Cosgrove’s election billboards were the subject of a complaint laid with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last month.

He is standing as Labour’s candidate in the Waimakariri electorate this upcoming election.

His billboards read: “Clayton Cosgrove, MP Waimakariri, Working Hard For You.”

The complainant petitioned: “Clayton Cosgrove is claiming to be the MP for Waimakariri in his electoral hoardings . . . by stating ‘MP Waimakariri’ on all of his signs. Kate Wilkinson is the MP for Waimakariri. Not Clayton.

“Mr Cosgrove is totally misleading electors when he says ‘MP Waimakariri’ on his signs, he is not the incumbent MP for the Waimakariri electorate.”

The Advertising Standards Complaints Board (five public and industry representatives) unanimously ruled not to uphold the complaint, they asserted:

“As an MP who still lives in the area and who will be standing in the electorate in the upcoming general election, the statement ‘Clayton Cosgrove MP Waimakariri’ was contextually correct.

“The Complaints Board was also of the view that while Hon Clayton Cosgrove had previously been the MP for Waimakiriri, the people in the electorate would be aware the Hon Kate Wilkinson was the incumbent MP. It said that in the context of the upcoming election, most people would realise the campaign billboards signalled the Labour MP’s intention to stand again for the electorate, not that he was the current electorate MP for Waimakariri.

“Therefore, the Complaints Board was unanimous in the view that the billboard was unlikely to deceive or mislead people and, as such, observed the requisite sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society. Therefore, the Complaints Board ruled the advertisement was not in breach of Basic Principle 4 or Rules 2 or 11 of the Code of Ethics.”

Advertising Standards Code of Ethics:

Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

Rule 2: Truthful Presentation – Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).

Rule 11: Advocacy Advertising – Expression of opinion in advocacy advertising is an essential and desirable part of the functioning of a democratic society. Therefore such opinions may be robust. However, opinion should be clearly distinguishable from factual information. The identity of an advertiser in matters of public interest or political issue should be clear.

In Mr Cosgrove’s response to the ASA he considered the “letter of complaint politically motivated”.

Ō News found complainant A. Taylor is a Facebook friend of National’s candidate for Waimakariri Matt Doocey.

Mr Cosgrove told the ASA: “I have not in any way misled anyone in respect of my status as reflected in the content of my billboards.

“I have been a Member of Parliament (MP) for 15 years based in the Waimakariri Electorate and for 12 of those years I was the MP for Waimakariri. I have had an electorate office in the Waimakariri Electorate for 15 years serving the constituents of the Waimakariri electorate.

“At the last General Election my billboards used the wording ‘Clayton Cosgrove MP for Waimakariri’. However, with my change in status, I removed the word ‘for’ from my billboards for this year’s election so the billboards now read ‘Clayton Cosgrove MP Waimakariri’.”

A. Taylor also alleged to the ASA that Clayton Cosgrove is in breach of the Electoral Act. Although the ASA does not have jurisdiction, the Electoral Commission does.

Mr Cosgrove stated, “Before using my billboards I took the step of submitting the content and layout to the Electoral Commission, which administers the Electoral Act, to ensure that it complied with the law. The Commission responded by confirming that the billboard (or in their terms “advertisement”) ‘meets the requirements of the Act’”.

For reference, the Electoral Act 1999’s section 3A meaning of election advertisement’s interpretation section: Contact information, in relation to a member of Parliament, means information that—

•(a) must include—

o(i) the name of the member of Parliament; and
o(ii) the contact details of the member of Parliament, being 1 or more of the following:

(A) telephone number:
(B) physical or postal address:
(C) email address; and

o(iii) the name of the electoral district that the member of Parliament represents or, if the member has not been elected to represent an electoral district, the fact that the member has been elected from a party list.

The Electoral Commission in its Guidance for MPs regarding funding from parliamentary services, Election Advertising Rules, posits:

— Consider the difference that adding a by-line can make. For example, “Working hard for new growth” . . . adding a by-line may transform contact information into a candidate advertisement.

— If you add in this type of by-line these words may, because of their open-ended nature, reasonably be regarded as evaluating your effectiveness as a current MP; and referring to what you can and will do in the future if re-elected, in a way that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote for you as a candidate.

The Waimakariri electorate has arguably the most marginal seat in the country. With Kate Wilkinson beating Clayton Cosgrove by only 642 votes at the last election and Cosgrove beating Wilkinson by only 390 votes in 2008. While National’s party vote winning margin in the electorate rose to 12,058 in 2011 compared to 5837 in 2008.

Many constituents whom Ō News spoke to about Cosgrove’s billboards evoked confusion and misleading implication. Asked if the billboard had them think that Clayton Cosgrove was the current Waimakariri MP, or if others could think that, they provided:

Jessica, 27, said, “Yeah it definitely appears that he is the current MP from the sign”.

Lincoln, 37, said, “It certainly gives that impression”.

Renee, 31, said, “This definitely makes it look like he is the current MP. Very misleading!”.

Amanda, 27, said, “I actually drove past it the other week and mentioned to my friend that I was surprised the guy was still around and had the role! I’ve only recently moved back to the country so for areas that I’m not familiar with, such as the Waimak, I wouldn’t have a clue who held the seat. Definitely misleading, absolutely!”.

Steven, 30, said, “It definitely does. I’d expect nothing less”.

Robert, 35, said, “If I didn’t know any better then I would be led to believe that he was the Waimak MP”.

Cameron, 29, said, “It does look that way . . . with a lot of new people moving into the Waimak District from Christchurch they might not think any different”.

Johnny, 24, said, “Looks like he’s got the job already”.

Brock, 22, said, “Could be misleading to others who aren’t up with current affairs”.

Lois, 30, said, “It certainly does come across like he is”.

Aaron, 37, said, “The way they’ve got it signwritten makes out he is the current MP”.

Angela, 28, said, “You would think he was the incumbent MP for Waimakariri”.

Hamish, 29, said, “It is deception because Kate Wilkinson is the current MP for Waimak, Clayton Cosgrove should have the book thrown at him for that”.

Larissa, 26, said, “It looks like he’s the current MP”.

Nicholas, 28, said, “Yes it does. And we know he is anyway . . . Oh real I thought Clayton was”.

Clayton Cosgrove’s website banner does not correlate with his election billboards. Source:

Clayton Cosgrove told Ō News what he was doing was “all legal” and how he had got it checked by the Electoral Commission beforehand.

“I’ve been the Waimak MP for 12 years out of 15 anyway and I’ve lived in the district the whole of that time,” he said.

He is also using the same publicity photo of himself as he used three years ago, particularly the same photo as what he had on his 2011 campaign billboards.

Here is a more recent likeness and appearance of Mr Cosgrove.


© Ōtautahi News /

© Scoop Media

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