GDC to meet again over conduct issues

Mayoral candidate: Rehette Stoltz. File picture
GDC councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown

GISBORNE District Council will meet again tomorrow to discuss the code of conduct issues that arose after a councillor said she overheard a colleague say not enough Maori were killed by the crew of the Endeavour, acting mayor Rehette Stoltz confirmed today.

This follows media interviews yesterday and on Sunday where Meredith Akuhata-Brown said she was not satisfied with the apology she received from the councillor said to have made the comment.

Mrs Stoltz, who chaired the code of conduct board, said the council would meet to discuss what had transpired over the weekend.

“Councillors had all agreed to a way forward. Councillor Akuhata-Brown also agreed to that.

“I am disappointed that once again we are playing this out in the media,” said Mrs Stoltz.

“We are meeting to listen and understand what has changed since that agreement was made.

“We will evaluate the situation after the meeting to decide whether a further statement should be issued.”

This will be the council’s second meeting to discuss a code of conduct inquiry into the alleged remark. Three councillors were investigated and the council found that two of them had breached the code.

But after a press release on the outcome of the inquiry, Mrs Akuhata-Brown said she declined to accept the apology — which she described as a backhanded one. She said it was not fair that the threat of a defamation action meant the councillor who made the comment could not be named.

If there was another code of conduct action she said she would “wear it”.

Asked if this was having an effect on the council she said “of course this is having an effect on the reputation and image of the council”.

“It is also having an effect on the 300 staff who do a fantastic job for our community.”

In an interview on Radio New Zealand this morning, former New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd said the Gisborne situation was a strange use of a code of conduct.

It appeared the code was being used as “a kind of weapon to silence what was by all accounts a serious breach of anyone’s human, and political, rights”.

“I would argue (it) is not the best use of the code of conduct actually.

“From my experience these things should be actually debated in public.

“We are elected by the people, so going behind closed doors and trying to shut down the media and things, it just makes it worse actually.

“It should be on the table. You are answerable to the public, not to each other particularly.”

Mr Judd said there was not much a council could do — a person could be sanctioned or removed from a committee, but you could not use a code of conduct to sack somebody.

In New Plymouth there were bad breaches of the code. That was why it was held in public, so people could actually form their own opinion.

GISBORNE District Council will meet again tomorrow to discuss the code of conduct issues that arose after a councillor said she overheard a colleague say not enough Maori were killed by the crew of the Endeavour, acting mayor Rehette Stoltz confirmed today.

This follows media interviews yesterday and on Sunday where Meredith Akuhata-Brown said she was not satisfied with the apology she received from the councillor said to have made the comment.

Mrs Stoltz, who chaired the code of conduct board, said the council would meet to discuss what had transpired over the weekend.

“Councillors had all agreed to a way forward. Councillor Akuhata-Brown also agreed to that.

“I am disappointed that once again we are playing this out in the media,” said Mrs Stoltz.

“We are meeting to listen and understand what has changed since that agreement was made.

“We will evaluate the situation after the meeting to decide whether a further statement should be issued.”

This will be the council’s second meeting to discuss a code of conduct inquiry into the alleged remark. Three councillors were investigated and the council found that two of them had breached the code.

But after a press release on the outcome of the inquiry, Mrs Akuhata-Brown said she declined to accept the apology — which she described as a backhanded one. She said it was not fair that the threat of a defamation action meant the councillor who made the comment could not be named.

If there was another code of conduct action she said she would “wear it”.

Asked if this was having an effect on the council she said “of course this is having an effect on the reputation and image of the council”.

“It is also having an effect on the 300 staff who do a fantastic job for our community.”

In an interview on Radio New Zealand this morning, former New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd said the Gisborne situation was a strange use of a code of conduct.

It appeared the code was being used as “a kind of weapon to silence what was by all accounts a serious breach of anyone’s human, and political, rights”.

“I would argue (it) is not the best use of the code of conduct actually.

“From my experience these things should be actually debated in public.

“We are elected by the people, so going behind closed doors and trying to shut down the media and things, it just makes it worse actually.

“It should be on the table. You are answerable to the public, not to each other particularly.”

Mr Judd said there was not much a council could do — a person could be sanctioned or removed from a committee, but you could not use a code of conduct to sack somebody.

In New Plymouth there were bad breaches of the code. That was why it was held in public, so people could actually form their own opinion.

FSC calls for review of conduct codes

THE Free Speech Coalition has accused Gisborne District Council of suppressing free speech after acting mayor Rehette Stoltz asked to meet a councillor to discuss her media statements.

Meredith Akuhata-Brown told media an apology from another councillor who she allegeges said the Endeavour crew did not kill enough Maori in 1769 was ‘‘backhanded’’, because they did not admit making the comment.

Mrs Stoltz is chairwoman of the code of conduct board that reviewed the matter.

Radio New Zealand reported yesterday that Mrs Akuhata-Brown was in “hot water” after her interview the previous day, and had been called to a meeting with the acting mayor.

Mrs Stolz told The Herald yesterday, “I just want to touch base with her and have a chat — she is not summoned to a meeting​.” Later she advised, “We were going to meet to chat but it was cancelled.”

Reacting to national media reports that Mrs Akuhata-Brown had been summoned, Free Speech Coalition spokesman Chris Trotter said codes of conduct drawn up by local authorities must not encroach upon the rights of elected councillors to speak freely about the behaviour of their own council, its councillors and/or its officials.

“Gisborne District Council’s code of conduct prohibits councillors from publicly criticising the council, fellow councillors and/or council officials,” he said.

“Councillors all over New Zealand are expected to sign similar codes of conduct upon election. In doing so, however, they need to be careful not to sign away their ability to act as effective democratic representatives.

“It is absurd to expect a councillor to remain silent in the face of what he or she believes to be unfair, outrageous or corrupt conduct on the part of the local authorities they serve.

“Councillors are there to act on behalf of the voters who elected them and they must not be required to reject the means of fulfilling that responsibility before taking their seat at the council table.”

The Gisborne incident was a timely example of the central role freedom of speech played in the democratic process, and illustrated the importance of resisting attempts to stifle free political expression.

“Prohibiting elected representatives from sharing their concerns with their constituents through the news media is a democratic outrage.

“The Free Speech Coalition strongly urges central government to take a much greater interest in the content of local authority codes of conduct, to ensure they do not breach the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act.”

Advised that a reported “summons” was exaggerated, Mr Trotter said “I don’t think it changes very much to say someone was invited rather than summoned”.

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Charles Brisbane Nikora - 1 year ago
I met Meredith Madoc (Akuhata-Brown) after she began attending the Apostolic Life Centre Church, Gladstone Road, Gisborne in 1986.
At the time I was the minister of the Church, she a 15-year-old student attending Gisborne Girls' High School.
She explained the deep desire within herself for her life to help people.
Her intention was realised in volunteering to serve at Dunblane Rest Home, Rutene Road - helping the senior citizens who lived there.
Whatever it took, was asked to do she did with out question; time to talk, take ones for walks, wiping bums, whatever it took.
Voluntary work became a future employment there.
I quickly realised Meredith has a huge capacity to love people.
Youth group in the church saw her as a great help and blessing to other kids.
Like many of us she has both Maori and Pakeha ancestry, not that it makes any difference to Meredith. She has a love for people that stems from her Love for God. To serve people is for her an outworking of His love.
Having met Jason, they married and have a lovely family of their own.
Serving on the council has come also because of that love, a place that she endeavours to help the community in the best way she can.

I honestly believe that when Meredith spoke openly of the conversation she heard concerning the Maori on the beach...... she did so out of her heartfelt conviction and compassion that what was being said was terribly hurtful to people. The fact they were Maori is immaterial . . . these were people. People that at 15 she decided she wanted to serve, help, love.

Her world revolves around people . . . a 15-year-old school girl volunteers to love old people and wipe their bums if that's what it takes, to show love.
Now as an adult nothing changes her heart is still loving people.
My relationship with Meredith and Jason is current, having met on many occasions and earlier this year they came to pay love respect and mourn the passing of my brother Rota at Whangara with my family.
A Maori proverb asks the question, What is the most important thing in life.
Answer. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
People, People, People.

I speak on her behalf and am proud of my relationship with Meredith and Jason Akuhata-Brown

Sincerely

Charles Brisbane Nikora.

Bryce Cook - 1 year ago
The alleged racist comment is nothing compared to what Pakeha hear everyday. And no one calls racism on it. Recently I've been both racially and sexually discriminated against. Yes for being Male and Pakeha. I could go to the human rights commission. But really can't be bothered over something so futile and not worth getting upset over. So if the said councillor made an offensive comment - really who cares?! To get upset over a stupid comment is more stupid than the person who said it.

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