Part 5: Complaints about election advertising and election programmes

This section explains what types of complaints are considered by the Electoral Commission, and the other agencies that are responsible for content of election-related advertising and programmes in different mediums.


The rules in the Electoral Act and the Broadcasting Act impose procedural or timing requirements on publishers and broadcasters. The restriction on broadcasting election programmes outside the election period, and the requirement for all election advertising to contain a promoter statement are examples.

The legislation does not prescribe the substantive content of election advertisements or election programmes, but publishers and broadcasters must comply with the relevant broadcasting standards or codes of practice.

Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission is responsible for considering complaints about the breaches of election advertising rules and the election day rules under the Electoral Act and election programmes under Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act. The Commission has no prosecution or enforcement role. If the Commission believes an offence has been committed it must report the facts to the New Zealand Police. For a limited number of Electoral Act offences the Commission does not have to report an offence if the offence is so inconsequential that there is no public interest in reporting those facts to the Police.

Complaints can be made in writing to or by post to the Electoral Commission at PO Box 3220, Wellington.

Broadcasting Standards Authority

Election programmes on television and radio (which include party and candidate advertisements) come within the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA). Election programmes must comply with the Election Programme Code which is available on the BSA website.

Third party programmes about election matters must comply with the relevant broadcasting standards for radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV.

Complaints about an election programme under the Election Programme Code must be made directly to the BSA:
Broadcasting Standards Authority
PO Box 9213, Wellington 6141
Level 2, 119 Ghuznee Street
Wellington 6011
Tel: 04 382 9508
Fax: 04 382 9543

Complaints about election-related broadcasting by broadcasters and third parties under the broadcasting standards must be made to the broadcaster in the first instance. If a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint to the broadcaster, they are entitled to refer their complaint to the BSA for review.

For advice on the codes or the complaints process contact the BSA (telephone 0800 366 996 or email

Advertising Standards Authority

The content of election advertising in all media, other than election programmes on television and radio, comes within the jurisdiction of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Advertising must comply with the ASA Codes of Practice.

The codes are available on the ASA website. See also the Advocacy Advertising Principles Guidance. Complaints can be made directly to:
Advertising Standards Authority
PO Box 10 675, Wellington 6143
Ground Floor, 79 Boulcott Street, Wellington
Tel: 04 472 7852 or
0800 ADHELP (0800 234357)

Press Council

The New Zealand Press Council is responsible for considering any complaints about the editorial content of a newspaper, magazine or periodical in circulation in New Zealand (including their websites) or digital sites, with news content, that have been accepted as a member of the Council.

Generally, a person bringing a complaint against a publication must, unless exempted by the Executive Director of the Council, first lodge the complaint in writing with the editor of the publication.

If the complainant is not satisfied by the editor’s response or receives no response from the editor within a period of 10 working days from the date on which the editor received the complaint, the complainant may then complain to the Press Council (online at or PO Box 10 879, The Terrace, Wellington, 6143).

Complaints must be made in writing preferably using the online form. Further information about the complaints procedure, time limits for bringing complaints, and a list of members of the Press Council are available at

Last updated: 30 March 2017