National Party scrambles to remove hundreds of supporters pre-planted over a week in advance

It's unclear whether the fake supporters are being paid, or whether they just accidentally signed their email up to a mailing list.

It’s unclear whether the fake supporters are being paid, or whether they just accidentally signed their email to a mailing list.

The National Party is scrambling tonight to remove hundreds of fake supporters who have been planted along walkabout routes for the remainder of the campaign, some of them already installed on site as much as a week out from planned visits.

The party was caught red handed today when a Ponsonby walkabout by National leader Judith Collins and Auckland Central sacrifice Emma Mellow, was revealed to feature meet-and-greets with members of the public who were actually members of the National Party, including long-time operative Hamish Price.

The unveiling of the stunt by television news this evening has prompted a hurried removal of all future planted supporters, of which there are said to be hundreds.

1 News spoke with a woman this evening who has been glued to the pavement in Anzac Square, just outside the Dunedin Railway Station, in anticipation of a coming visit by Collins.

“They installed me here about three days ago,” she told 1 News’ Jessica Mutch, “and I hear Judith is coming tomorrow, I think, and I’ve had plenty of time to rehearse the lines, so, hopefully…”

The woman, who would identify herself only as “Lydia”, reported being “faint” and “somewhat dehydrated.” She had got some sleep but hadn’t been fed or watered since Saturday.

She did not want to speak for long, as she needed to preserve energy for the “big moment.”

It is understood that some planted supporters have previously been uninstalled for “health related reasons.”

But tonight the party was issued a directive to uninstall all supporters, effective immediately, to avoid any further embarrassment.

“I don’t think anybody will get any sleep tonight,” said one Wellington-based campaign manager. “The ground-mounted supporters will remove easily, but it will take significantly more time to uninstall the ceiling and wall-mounted ones. That’s really the trick, the leader’s office wants these all gone by tomorrow, but really, add all that up and take into account some of the more sophisticated ones, some of them, they move, so really that could take days.”

Several of Collins’ future meet-and-greets have been relocated to rest homes, where it’s anticipated voters won’t be able to leave without aid from a nurse.