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Climate Voter campaign takes Electoral Commission to court

Published: 7:14PM Tuesday July 15, 2014 Source: ONE News

  • Climate change graphic of Earth (Source: ONE News)
    Climate change graphic of Earth - Source: ONE News

An environmental group is taking the Electoral Commission to court after its climate campaign was ruled an election advertisement.

The Climate Voter campaign is jointly organised by Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and Oxfam among others, and was launched month. It aims to get voters to register at climatevoter.org.nz and show they will use their vote in support of climate change policy.

The Electoral Commission has now ruled the campaign may encourage people to vote in a certain way and classified it as an election advertisement.

Micahel Tritt, Greenpeace climate campaigner, says, "Political independence and being non-partisan is such a fundamental principle for us. We are not in the business of election advertising. We don't take money from political parties. We don't take money from governments."

If the commission's decision is upheld in the High Court, Climate Voter material would be treated as electoral advertising and would be counted as an election expense. The name of the promoter would also need to be shown.

Being treated as electoral advertising also means no more than $12,300 can be spent.

Andrew Geddis, a law professor at the University of Otago, says the case will likely be watched closely by others.

"This is very much a test case because the relevant section of the electoral act which deals with electoral advertising hasn't been to court before."

Other lobbying and issues based groups spoken to by ONE News say they would be concerned at any attempt by the Electoral Commission to force them to declare their work as ads and will be watching the court decision closely.

"Because the Electoral Commission has applied quite a wide test to the question of what is an electoral advertisement, there are a lot of groups that could fall under it," says Mr Geddis.

The Climate Voter initiative is jointly organised by Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, Oxfam, WWF, 350 Aotearoa, and Generation Zero.

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