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 at­coun­

Beach of con­tention: Ve­hi­cle ac­cess to Ti­tahi Bay Beach re­mains a hot is­sue in the com­mu­nity.

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