Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne is under police investigation for election overspending. Bonne spent $20,928 on his campaign – the legal limit is $20,000. Genuine concerns are also held that Bonne did not declare all his expenditure and some costs were inappropriately written off.
Although the amount overspent is small, a mere $928, it represents a blatant breach of the rules and brings into question the legitimacy of Bonne’s election win. The second placed candidate, former United Future MP Judy Turner, was within 600 votes of Tony Bonne. Did $928 spell the difference between Judy Turner and Tony Bonne? Did undeclared and inappropriately written off expenditure spell the difference between Judy Turner and Tony Bonne? It is impossible to know for sure, however it is conceivable that it did.
Tony Bonne pleads ignorance. He claims that he did not know the limit was GST inclusive. This is a piss poor excuse. The Electoral Commission makes it quite clear that GST is included. Tony Bonne, as a former Mayor, should have at the very least a fair understanding of electoral rules. I find it rather odd that a former elected representative and experienced election campaigner overlooked, or did not know, that the election spending limit is GST inclusive. Is it not prudent and sensible to at least ‘assume’ that the limit is GST inclusive? If you remember National also deployed the ‘GST excuse’ in 2005 and the excuse was just as laughable then as it is now.
Clearly Tony Bonne has breached the rules and, in my opinion, attempted to play the system. There is room for forgiveness if it becomes apparent that it was all an honest mistake. However, if the opposite is true then Tony Bonne must step down. His mayoralty is stained and there is growing feeling that his election win was illegitimate. The people of Whakatane deserved an honest election – sadly they did not receive one.