Press Coun­cil up­holds com­plaint over story

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE -

Andrew Frazer com­plained that a story in

‘‘Prob­lems per­sist for Pau­ata­hanui cafe’’ (Fe­bru­ary 23) was mis­lead­ing and lacked bal­ance.

The Ar­ti­cle

The news­pa­per car­ried a re­port on the costs faced by the cafe owner, Dar­ryl El­lis, for re­source con­sent from Porirua City Coun­cil for ex­ten­sions to his premises, com­pris­ing ad­di­tional seat­ing and a car park­ing area.

Along­side a pic­ture of Mr El­lis in the cafe, the story quoted him say­ing, ‘‘I’ve been treated ter­ri­bly. I feel like I have been bul­lied.’’ The con­sent had taken two years and in­creased the cost of his ex­ten­sions from $40,000 to $120,000.

The bulk of the re­port was de­voted to Mr El­lis’ frus­tra­tions with the coun­cil. A re­sponse from the coun­cil’s act­ing general man­ager was in­cluded. He said the con­sent process had been dif­fi­cult and he con­sid­ered the costs rea­son­able.

The Com­plaint

Mr Frazer, a Porirua res­i­dent, com­plained the re­port ig­nored in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to the news­pa­per which ex­plained it was Mr El­lis, not the coun­cil, that caused his ap­pli­ca­tion to take so long and be­come so costly for him. An In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sioner had re­viewed the case and con­cluded the coun­cil had acted cor­rectly and its charges were rea­son­able.

Mr Frazer said the com­mis­sioner’s re­port was pro­vided to the Kapi-Mana News re­porter.

The Re­sponse

The edi­tor of Kapi-Mana News con­tended the story was fair, bal­anced and ac­cu­rate. It ac­cu­rately con­veyed that Mr El­lis was un­happy with his treat­ment by the coun­cil and that the coun­cil was sat­is­fied it dealt prop­erly with the case.

In his ini­tial re­sponse to the com­plainant, the edi­tor said his re­porter, ‘‘was in­deed sup­plied with some in­for­ma­tion by the coun­cil. He was also sup­plied with some in­for­ma­tion by Mr El­lis. He read it all, dis­cussed it and pro­duced his story.’’

The De­ci­sion

Read­ers of the news­pa­per would not have re­alised from its re­port that the cafe owner was largely to blame for the time and costs of his re­source con­sent. This was the find­ing of an In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sioner, which Kapi-Mana News did not men­tion in its story.

The tenor of the news­pa­per’s re­port was this was a busi­ness fac­ing un­fair ex­pense at the hands of an un­rea­son­able coun­cil. The vague, cau­tious com­ments of the coun­cil’s general man­ager would not have al­tered this im­pres­sion.

A longer ver­sion of the news­pa­per’s story was pub­lished on the Stuff web­site. This ver­sion did men­tion the In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sioner’s find­ing, al­beit well down the story. Mr Frazer said had the on­line ver­sion ap­peared in the news­pa­per he would not have brought his com­plaint.

The In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sioner’s re­port makes it clear Mr El­lis sought ret­ro­spec­tive con­sent for work al­ready done, that more con­struc­tion started be­fore a build­ing con­sent was granted, and an abate­ment no­tice was is­sued, that se­nior coun­cil of­fi­cers spent con­sid­er­able time try­ing to per­suade Mr El­lis to ap­ply for con­sent and pro­vided him with ad­vice. He was not charged for any of that time.

The coun­cil made the de­ci­sion to no­tify the ap­pli­ca­tion be­cause the ap­pli­cant had not pro­vided suf­fi­cient fur­ther in­for­ma­tion when asked.

The In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sioner re­ports that there were also mul­ti­ple changes to the ap­pli­ca­tion dur­ing the process, which forced coun­cil of­fi­cers to re­con­sider as­pects of the con­sent.

A news­pa­per that sought to give its read­ers an ac­cu­rate ac­count of Mr El­lis’ deal­ings with the coun­cil would have made ref­er­ence to these as­pects of the case, read­ily avail­able to it in the In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sioner’s re­port. The com­ments of the coun­cil’s general man­ager were not suf­fi­cient to alert read­ers to the other side of the story.

Kapi-Mana News’ fail­ure to do so left its read­ers with an in­ac­cu­rate im­pres­sion from an un­bal­anced re­port that was un­fair to them and to the coun­cil. The com­plaint is up­held. Peo­ple with a com­plaint against a news­pa­per or mag­a­zine should first com­plain in writ­ing to the edi­tor of the pub­li­ca­tion and then, if they are not sat­is­fied with the re­sponse, com­plain to the Press Coun­cil. Com­plaints can be lodged us­ing the on­line com­plaint for­mor ad­dressed to the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, PO Box 10 879, The Ter­race, Welling­ton. Phone 473 5220 or 0800 969 357. In­for­ma­tion on the Press Coun­cil is avail­able at press coun­cil.org.nz.

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