The official opening of the new Kapiti Coast Speakers’ Corner – Paepae Kai Korero — has been postponed for five weeks to allow more public participation.
The Friends of Free Speech group, which is organising the project, says the opening date will now be on Saturday, April 6, at 12 noon.
This is instead of a mid-morning launch after the opening of the refurbished Civic Building on Monday, March 4.
Friends’ chair Ron Wilkinson says the postponement will mean larger numbers of the public, many of whom work during the week, will be able to attend.
It’s also hoped that Mayor Jenny Rowan, who was unable to attend the opening next week because of another commitment, will be present at the April 6 ceremony.
Mr Wilkinson says the Friends are planning to get first-rate speakers for the re-launch of the site next to the Paraparaumu Library.
Minimum of rules
Speakers’ Corner will be dedicated to the democratic right of free and unfettered speech – with an absolute minimum of rules and regulations.
Mr Wilkinson says there will be just two ‘bookable’ spaces – a half-hour at noon on Wednesdays, and another half hour at noon on Saturdays.
He also released what will be a brief ‘code of conduct’ for speakers.
It says: ‘Speakers’ Corner is your platform. You can use it express any idea, opinion or viewpoint as long as it is lawful.
“Our council, which is the landowner, says amplifiers and loudspeakers should not be used.
‘The area is intended for citizens, but not for anyone wanting to use it for commercial gain.’
The code also suggests that speakers:
- Respect other people’s opinions
- Avoid offensive language
- Be courteous to other speakers and listeners
- Limit your time to a maximum of 15 minutes
‘Guardians’ of the new community asset
The Friends of Free Speech, who will become friendly ‘guardians’ of the unique new community asset hope to unveil a timber stump on the site on April 6.
The stump will provide a handy prop for speakers. It will also have a plaque attached, setting out the ideals for this new democratic initiative on the Coast.
(Strictly speaking, the launching of Speakers’ Corner is a re-launching. It was first approved by the KCDC in 2002 after an approach by journalist K Gurunathan, but after one or two functions it fell into disuse)
Another member of the Friends’ group, Alan Tristram, says that, as far as he is aware, the Kapiti Speakers’ Corner will be one of the very few areas in the country set up on a public space, and approved by the local authority, as a venue for free speech at all times.