Press Council complaint not upheld
In November last year, Titahi Bay Residents Association and its chairman Graeme Ebbett made a complaint to the New Zealand Press Council.
They claimed Kapi-Mana News failed to comply with principles 1 (accuracy, balance and fairness) and 11 (corrections) of the Press Council Statement of Principles in relation to three pieces published on September 25 concerning a push to establish a community board in Titahi Bay and a dispute between the residents’ association (TBRA) and Porirua City Council over vehicle beach access.
The Press Council has not upheld the complaints. Background TBRA had circulated a petition calling for a community board, citing concerns over the council’s administration of local assets. The part of the article titled ‘‘ Third call for Titahi Bay board’’ referred to the TBRA petition and pointed out requests for a community board had been previously rejected twice by the Local Government Commission.
The sidebar story headed ‘‘Beach row boils over’’ referred to ‘‘simmering ill will’’ between the council and Mr Ebbett over beach access.
An editorial, titled ‘‘ Must it be so hard?’’ bemoaned the breakdown in relations between TBRA and the council but questioned the need for a community board for Titahi Bay. The complaint TBRA and Mr Ebbett said the pieces were inaccurate in three ways. First, the paper did not set out the full background as regards the Titahi Bay community village plan, published 2005, which recommended the establishment of a community board.
Secondly, the paper failed to say the council had not enforced beach vehicle access rules as it was required to do.
Thirdly, Mr Ebbett said KapiMana News was wrong when it claimed he had stood unsuccessfully for the council four times.
Mr Ebbett also took issue with the editorial’s reference to the TBRA and himself provoking an adversarial culture with the city council, and said it was the council, not TBRA, which initiated controversy.
TBRA and Mr Ebbett claimed Kapi- Mana News set out to ‘‘deliberately mislead and misinform’’ readers by these omissions and failed to give a right of reply on the beach access issue.
They said the articles were ‘‘completely personalised’’ to Mr Ebbett and the TBRA when they were simply advocating for the village plan’s adoption. The response Kapi-Mana News defended the pieces as being balanced and fair, and acknowledged space constraints precluded a full account of the background.
The community board proposal did not feature prominently in the 2005 Titahi Bay village plan. It was not a requirement, rather one of 70 ‘‘proposed actions’’.
Kapi-Mana News said its check of the Porirua City Council records showed Mr Ebbett stood for the council four times between 1995 and 2010. Mr Ebbett said he had ‘‘ no record of accepting any local body nomination 17 years ago’’.
The newspaper acknowledged not having referred the mayor’s comments in the ‘‘ Beach row’’ sidebar story to Mr Ebbett for a response. The story had opened with Mr Ebbett’s own comment, it was the council which had the right of reply. The decision There is controversy over the manner by which the Titahi Bay area should be governed at a local level. This controversy has continued for some time.
Such controversies have occurred elsewhere in New Zealand. The issues invariably give rise to strong opposing opinions which are honestly held. Such is the price of democracy.
The media often reports on these matters given the level of interest. It is almost inevitable such reporting will not be to the liking of one group or another. This is the case here.
Kapi- Mana News serves the Titahi Bay and neighbouring areas. Questions as to whether Titahi Bay should have its own community board are topical. TBRA had launched a petition which brought matters back into focus. It was not surprising the petition encouraged different views.
The Press Council considers the articles from September 25 to be fair and balanced. On any objective view the pieces do little more than recite the respective views of TBRA and the Porirua City mayor.
The two sides of the debate are canvassed albeit in a summary form. The Press Council Principles do not require newspapers to fully rehearse the history when reporting on long running issues.
The editorial was clearly opinion. TBRA and Mr Ebbett disagree strongly with the editor. There will be others who agree.
Opinion pieces do not offend the Press Council Principles simply because they engender strong opposing reactions. It takes extreme circumstances to do with risks to the public or gratuitous offence to a particular group for the council to uphold a complaint against an expression of opinion.
Press Council members who considered this complaint were Barry Paterson, Tim Beaglehole, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, John Roughan and Stephen Stewart. Clive Lind, an employee of Fairfax New Zealand, took no part in the consideration of this complaint.
This ruling has been summarised. A full version is available at www.presscouncil.org.nz.
Beach of contention: Vehicle access to Titahi Bay Beach remains a hot issue in the community.