CBC Library Display Gagged by WCC
10 April 2002
Campaign for a Better City (CBC) is stunned by Wellington City Council’s refusal to allow it to put up a small display in the Wellington Central Library.
Transit New Zealand recently mounted a library display supporting its plans for the controversial inner-city “bypass”. Yet when bypass opponents CBC wrote to the Council asking permission to put up its own display, CBC was refused.
CBC spokesperson Roland Sapsford said CBC has had leaflets and displays in the library several times in the past decade. He said that the refusal ought to ring alarm bells for community groups across the city.
“Wellington City Library has traditionally been a forum for all sorts of organisations to mount displays and publicise issues” said Mr Sapsford. “Now we have a Council regime that is starting to say ‘if you disagree with the Council our facilities may be out of bounds’ – this is a slippery slope in a democracy”
Mr Sapsford said it was ironic the Council expressed concern about balance in a CBC display it had never seen when the Transit material contained a number of factual errors and gross exaggerations.
“Transit’s material made no attempt at balance and contains wildly exaggerated claims about time savings, for example. WCC appears to be saying factual accuracy only matters if you disagree with them.
All CBC is trying to do it is put up a modest information display that reflects the legitimate views of a large number of Wellingtonians”. said Mr Sapsford.
Mr Sapsford said he had no idea why the Council felt so threatened by a small display and observed that one would have thought they had more faith in their “bypass” plans. He concluded by facetiously wondering if books and magazines were now also being checked for compliance with Council policy.
Dear Mr Taylor,
Thank for your letter of 3 April in which you seek permission to post material in the Central Library to give Campaign for a Better City's point of view on the proposed Bypass. I understand that you request display space to counter the material recently displayed by Transit New Zealand.
Unfortunately I am not prepared to give you that permission - for a number of reasons - which I'll outline here:
The Council's Libraries displays policy outlines that displays are accepted at the discretion of the Libraries Manager or her/his delegated representative. It also directs that displays should reflect a benefit to the community as a whole. Every effort must be made to ensure a balance in the displays that are provided so that no one viewpoint or subject is over-represented.
I do not believe that CBC's display, opposing the Bypass, will meet this criteria.
On top of that, the planned Bypass is supported as a matter of policy by the City Council - and we have allowed Transit to put up its posters because they echo entirely the Council's point of view. If Transit had not provided the posters then it is likely the Council would have produced and displayed its own versions.
It is common practice for the Council to mount displays in its libraries that provide information about Council projects - or projects supported by the Council.
Finally, you will understand that the Central Library is a City Council facility - and we do not feel we should be compelled to display material on our premises that directly contradicts or attack's the Council's point of view.
Community Services Director
Wellington City Council