The Victorian Labor party took Darebin city council to the supreme court this morning for allegedly removing candidate billboards in what it called a politically motivated attack from the Greens-dominated council.

The contest between Labor MP Kat Theophanous and Greens candidate Campbell Gome for the seat of Northcote, in Melbourne’s inner north, is expected to come down to the wire on Saturday.

The matter was heard in court at 10.30am Tuesday morning but adjourned until Wednesday so Darebin council could have more time to prepare its case.

The Victorian Labor party alleged that in the last two months eight large billboards belonging to Theophanous have been removed from private properties by council without the campaign’s knowledge. Each billboard costs up to $1,163 to create and up to $500 to install.

Theophanous’s campaign team said they investigated and found that the signs had been taken to the tip and two had been destroyed.

Darebin council would not comment on the matter before it went to court. There is no suggestion Gome was in any way involved in the billboards’ removal.

A spokesperson for Labor accused the Greens-dominated council of tampering in the election.

“This is blatant political interference from the Greens-dominated city of Darebin council, who are acting just like the Liberal-controlled Bayside council in Goldstein during this year’s federal election,” the spokesperson said.

“People have the right to campaign and seek community support without craven political interference from local councils.

“Darebin council is wasting ratepayers’ money engaging in these sorts of dirty tricks – they should stick to their day job.”

The Andrews government is increasingly worried about losing Northcote, as well as neighbouring Richmond, after the Liberals decided to preference the Greens ahead of Labor.

The Greens briefly held Northcote when Lidia Thorpe, now a Victorian senator, won it at a byelection in 2017 before losing it at the 2018 general election to Theophanous.

The two-party preferred margin is 1.7% meaning the result could come down to hundreds of votes.

In Richmond, the retirement of veteran Labor MP Richard Wynne after 23 years has given the Greens confidence – the margin there is 5.8%.

Billboards were allegedly removed from private property at the Aborigines Advancement League and Fronditha Aged Care in Thornbury, and the Greek Orthodox Church of St George and Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in Northcote.

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