Com­plaint not en­dorsed

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

The Press Coun­cil has not up­held a com­plaint by South Waikato Mayor Neil Sin­clair against the South Waikato News.

Mr Sin­clair com­plained that a re­port of a district coun­cil de­ci­sion on Maori rep­re­sen­ta­tion car­ried an in­ac­cu­rate head­line, con­tained edi­to­rial com­ment and ac­cused the coun­cil of deny­ing the pub­lic a vote on the is­sue. The com­plaint is not up­held. Back­ground On Au­gust 10 the South Waikato News pub­lished com­ment from the mayor, var­i­ous coun­cil mem­bers and oth­ers on the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion not to es­tab­lish ded­i­cated Maori seats and not to put the ques­tion to a poll.

The story was headed, ‘‘Coun­cil ve­toes bid for Maori seat’’ and said, ‘‘the pub­lic will not be al­lowed a say by the coun­cil’’.

The next day the coun­cil is­sued a press state­ment ad­vis­ing that if 5 per cent of the district’s reg­is­tered vot­ers made a for­mal sub­mis­sion in favour of Maori seats the coun­cil would be obliged to con­duct a poll.

It ex­plained how many sig­na­tures would be re­quired, when the re­quest must be re­ceived to be in time for the next elec­tion and the cost of a poll.

The news­pa­per, a weekly, pub­lished this in­for­ma­tion in its next is­sue, on Au­gust 17. The ma­te­rial ap­peared in a para­graph well down a story that raised ques­tions about a meet­ing the mayor had told the coun­cil was held with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the lo­cal iwi, Raukawa, in 2005.

The mayor said that at that meet­ing the iwi rep­re­sen­ta­tives had in­di­cated they did not want a seat. They pre­ferred to have an ap­pointee on com­mit­tees when some­thing of sig­nif­i­cance to Maori was con­sid­ered and have a Maori ad­vis- ory com­mit­tee es­tab­lished.

The news­pa­per’s Au­gust 17 story quoted a Raukawa kau­matua say­ing he had made in­quiries of lead­ing kau­matua around the area and none of them could re­call such a meet­ing.

A fort­night later, on Au­gust 31, the news­pa­per re­ported that the mayor’s cred­i­bil­ity had been ques­tioned at a coun­cil meet­ing where the 2005 hui re­mained a mys­tery. The pa­per quoted the coun­cil’s sole Maori mem­ber ex­press­ing con­cern that the de­ci­sion on ded­i­cated seats was based on in­for­ma­tion the mayor had supplied. The Com­plaint Mr Sin­clair com­plained to the Press Coun­cil, sup­ply­ing copies of his di­ary from 2005 that recorded his at­ten­dance at a hui on Maori rep­re­sen­ta­tion and of­fer­ing tes­ti­mo­ni­als from two Maori lead­ers who at­tended it.

He was ad­vised that com­plaints must first be taken to the ed­i­tor, which he did. The Ed­i­tor’s Re­sponse The ed­i­tor, Florence Kerr, stood by the head­line on the Au­gust 10 story and held the story was not wrong, merely ‘‘in­com­plete’’ when it ne­glected to men­tion the right to pe­ti­tion for a poll. This, she said, was in­cluded in sub­se­quent sto­ries.

She be­lieved the pa­per was jus­ti­fied in re­port­ing con­fu­sion over the 2005 meet­ing but said the ma­te­rial supplied to the Press Coun­cil would have ‘‘in­flu­enced the sub­se­quent sto­ries’’.

When the ma­te­rial was made pub­lic the pa­per pub­lished the fact in a story headed, ‘‘Mayor ta­bles proof of meet­ing’’.

Mr Sin­clair was not sat­is­fied and com­plained again to the Press Coun­cil. The De­ci­sion The Press Coun­cil does not be­lieve the head­line was mis­lead­ing. While the words ‘‘veto’’ and ‘‘bid’’ were not well cho­sen they would not have mis­led read­ers.

Nor was the story in er­ror when it said, ‘‘ the pub­lic will not be al­lowed a say by the coun­cil’’. The propo­si­tion be­fore the district coun­cil was to in­vite peo­ple to have a say through a poll; a stand­ing right of cit­i­zens to pe­ti­tion for a poll is not the same thing.

A third point of com­plaint, con­fu­sion of fact and com­ment, ap­pears to be based on a per­cep­tion of the re­porter’s sym­pa­thy for sep­a­rate Maori rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Nev­er­the­less, the re­ports are based on fac­tual quo­ta­tions and do not in­clude edi­to­rial com­ment.

It may be the com­plaint was prompted less by these spe­cific grounds than by the com­plainant’s un­der­stand­able an­noy­ance that his cred­i­bil­ity was called into ques­tion on the mat­ter of the 2005 hui. He was able to give the Press Coun­cil doc­u­men­tary sup­port; he could have fur­nished the ed­i­tor with the same in­for­ma­tion in a timely man­ner. The com­plaint is not up­held. Press Coun­cil mem­bers con­sid­er­ing this com­plaint were Barry Pater­son, Pip Bruce Fer­gu­son, Kate Cough­lan, Chris Dar­low, Sandy Gill, Keith Lees, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Ste­wart. Clive Lind took no part in the con­sid­er­a­tion of this com­plaint.

Peo­ple with a com­plaint against a news­pa­per or mag­a­zine should first com­plain in writ­ing to the ed­i­tor of the pub­li­ca­tion and then, if not sat­is­fied with the re­sponse, com­plain to the Press Coun­cil. Com­plaints should be ad­dressed to the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, PO Box 10 879, The Ter­race, Welling­ton. Phone 473 5220 or 0800 969 357.

Press Coun­cil de­tails are on­line at: www.press­coun­cil.org.nz

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