Protesters’ posters a sticking point
Frustration with the media and a belief in the right to protest are at the heart of a scrap between anti free trade protesters and Hutt City Council staff.
In March, councillors voted to support protesters fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). TPP Action believe the TPPA will undermine Pharmac and open the Government up to legal threats from United States corporations.
To advertise rallies, TPP Action has glued posters and fliers to lampposts and other infrastructure around Lower Hutt.
That has resulted in a protracted email battle, as council officers have tried to recover the cost of removing the posters.
Council solicitor Brad Cato has now sent TPP Action member Antony Maddock a letter setting a May 29 deadline to pay $1400.
‘‘My proposed solution at this stage is to claim the costs associated with removing the unauthorised fliers through the Disputes Tribunal or District Court. Given the lack of remorse, on-going failure to seek authorisation to erect fliers and failure to accept responsibility for the mess you are causing by removing these fliers yourself, I have also suggested a prosecution for breach of the bylaw might be appropriate here.’’
The council is taking action against Maddock although it has had correspondence from TPP Action’s Greg Rzesniowiecki, saying he put the posters up.
Rzesniowiecki has replied to the May 29 deadline with a four-page letter to the mayor, asking for intervention.
‘‘I write to you, seeking a political solution to an administrative problem your staff have laid at our feet.’’
He told the mayor mainstream media have ignored the issue and TPP Action felt it had to use other ways to get its message across.
‘‘ I assert it is our activism, which included posting public notices throughout the Wellington region, including the Hutt City Council territory, that contributed to the decision that Hutt City Council, along with Wellington City, Upper Hutt City, and Kapiti Coast District Councils arrived at in adopting the TPP policy solution.’’
Rzesniowiecki goes on to say he is happy to debate the issue in court.
‘‘If you must proceed against some person, I am happy enough for the opportunity to discuss our human rights, including free speech, and the responsibilities of the fourth estate, before the courts.’’
Mayor Ray Wallace told Hutt News it is an operational matter and he will not get involved.
Rzesniowiecki told us he believed the courts would uphold his right to freedom of expression.
TPP Action has a right to have its message heard and the council should not have taken the posters down, he said.
Happy to see council staff take a tough stance is Cr Max Shierlaw.
‘‘I have no sympathy for them. It is totally outrageous for them to think the ratepayers should pick up the tab. There are other ways to get their message out, like pamphlets in letterboxes.’’
Greg Rzesniowiecki, seen here at a protest in Nelson, is fighting the Hutt City Council over the right to protest. The council is billing him for the cost of removing posters advertising anti free trade rallies.