Election signs on the corner of Papamoa Beach Rd and Domain Rd - File

Election signs on the corner of Papamoa Beach Rd and Domain Rd - File

Roadside signs will continue to be a messy feature of Tauranga City Council elections but for two fewer weeks than normal.

The council on Tuesday did a u-turn on its earlier proposal to ban candidate election signs from public roadsides.

After receiving only 10 public submissions on the plan for Tauranga to join Rotorua and Hamilton in banning roadside signs, the council opted to stick with the status quo - mainly because banning signs would be undemocratic.

Rick Curach, the councillor whose "Pick Rick" signs have become an indispensable part of his election campaigns, said: "Most people don't care enough to make a submission."

In the end, even the most ardent supporter of banning signs, Mayor Stuart Crosby, did not oppose the status quo.

But he highlighted how the submitters who supported keeping signs were those who had previously stood for the council whereas four of the five who wanted to get rid of signs had not been candidates. "The public generally sees them as a mess."

The only change to the rules for election signs was the unanimous decision to reduce the time limit from six weeks to four weeks - a week before voting papers were mailed out.

Cr Wayne Moultrie said signs were nothing more than visual pollution and there were many more ways to get elected than "smearing the city with signs". The best way was the recognition built up from a candidate's contribution to the community.

Cr Catherine Stewart argued it was undemocratic to ban signs. It was only every three years and raised public awareness of the election.

Mr Crosby said there was no evidence that signs created more participation in elections - participation was more about the issues.

Cr Larry Baldock said signs created a whole lot of visual pollution and were weekend sport for people to smash to bits. He struggled to see how signs saying "Pick Rick" told people what Cr Curach stood for, but they had been effective, he said.

Cr Curach said signs created a huge public awareness of the election, including newspaper stories about the roadside mess.

Cr Murray Guy said signs were a cost-effective branding for candidates. He compared the 2010 election where he did not use signs and was the lowest-polling successful at-large candidate, with 2007 when he used signs as part of the Pick 6 campaign and got the most successful vote.

Meeting chairman Cr David Stewart quipped, to laughter: "That is your excuse for polling so low."

Cr Tony Christiansen said signs were important for branding although he would like to have seen restrictions on the open-slather approach.