Draconian media policy adopted by Horowhenua District Council.
By our Horowhenua correspondent, Veronica Harrod
The Horowhenua District Council has adopted a media policy that refuses to recognise media questions unless they are from, “a news media organisation registered by the New Zealand Companies Office.”
“Any further enquiries that are not from a news media organisation registered by the New Zealand Companies Office will be treated as Official Information Requests,” says Council’s communications advisor Trish Hayward. The council also wants to know what news organisations the information is being provided to and what the deadline is.
No grounds to withhold informqtion
Dr Gavin Ellis, author of ‘Complacent Nation’, a book that explores the erosion of New Zealanders’ right to know said, “Nothing in the Act gives council the right to withhold information on the grounds that a publication and deadline are not given by the information seeker.
“I believe that, if the council refuses to supply information to a freelancer for that reason, there are good grounds for a complaint to the Ombudsman. It is useful for council officers to know the deadline to which a journalist is working but that is in order to expedite the flow of information, not to stem it,” Dr Ellis says.
The council’s media policy was adopted after questions were asked about how council was fulfilling its legislative requirement to consult on a very important 20 year 2018-2038 Long Term Plan (LTP); the first 20 year LTP.
Small communities will be hit
Council has signalled an intention to rate the small communities of Waitarere, Hokio, Ohau, Manakau and Waikawa $106 million for new water and waste-water systems.
There will only be three days before submissions on the draft 2018-2038 LTP close on 26 March if the council wait 21 days to answer the questions
Some of the questions the Council should answer
Council has been asked, among other questions:
(1) why public consultations are being held at the Levin Aquatic Centre instead of Te Takere which is regarded as the centre of the community?
(2) Whether council has more responsibility to ensure ratepayers are fully informed considering an intention to raise $106 million for new water and waste water infrastructure in “new growth” areas?
(3) Why it is acceptable land and property developers haven’t contributed one cent to essential infrastructure in “growth areas” (recently) yet ratepayers are expected to pay for it?
(4) How much the infrastructure rate equates to in dollar terms for each affected area?
(5) Given the complexity of the draft 20 year LTP whether public consultations should include more than four relatively obscure public meetings?
(6) What has council been doing to consult residents who need assistance to understand the draft LTP implications?
(7) Why doesn’t council doesn’t visit marae, associations and groups around the district and tell them how they will be directly affected?