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Letter To Banks: Democracy For Developers - Only

OPEN LETTER TO AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL MAYOR JOHN BANKS

WHY ARE THE RIGHTS OF THE WATER PRESSURE GROUP TO ADDRESS THE COUNCIL ON MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST BEING VIOLATED BY THE MAYOR?

26 August 2004

The Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, Rosslyn Noonan received an email on 25 August 2004, from myself as Media Spokesperson for the Water Pressure Group, which included the following:

"2) Advise that I am going to again request speaking rights for the Water Pressure Group (Auckland) at tomorrow night's Auckland City Council meeting.

If Mayor John Banks again denies them, I will be making a formal complaint to the HRC on the basis of discrimination on the grounds of political opinion."

The Official Information reply dated 4 August 2004, on your behalf, stated:

"In the current instance, the Mayor has refused a deputation to Council by members of the Water Pressure Group, based on previous experiences when members of that Group have caused disruption at Council meetings, and have been disrespectful of the democratic process.

Specific incidents of inappropriate behaviour are not recorded by the Council, nor are the names taken of participants in such behaviour."

How 'impartial' is that?

An effective blanket denial of speaking rights to members of a well-known and respected community group - based on what evidence?

To deny citizens their right to be heard is 'disrespectful of the democratic process' and a violation of our basic human rights, and civil liberties.

Where speaking rights in the past have been requested and granted, letters have been received from the Auckland City Council, thanking Water Pressure Group members for our presentation.

When our basic human right to freedom of expression has been denied, without justifiable reason, then Water Pressure Group members have defended the democratic process, by speaking out.

Twice,as Mayor, you have denied the Water Pressure Group (Auckland) speaking rights on the issue of the use of Waikato river water as a 'raw' source of drinking water for people of the Auckland region.

Yet, through hundreds of hours of research, the Water Pressure Group had uncovered information that showed that Watercare did not know what contaminants were in the Waikato river; did not know the effect of chemicals in combination; did not know the bio-accumulation effect of contaminants in the water; and that there have been no short or long-term health risk assessments of the risk to public health from drinking 'treated' Waikato river water.

So - on what basis did Watercare claim in a leaflet distributed to thousands of households in the Auckland region that the treated water was 'pure' and 'safe to drink'?

Councillors (including the Mayor) have statutory duties to promote and protect the public health of people within their area.

Yet, we were denied speaking rights to raise this issue with the Auckland City Council.

I personally, was physically manhandled by Security Guards and thrown out of an Auckland City Council meeting for trying to alert Councillors about these issues.

The Commerce Commission is currently assessing a complaint of misleading advertising relating to Watercare's claim of 'A' grading (of water supplied to nearly 75% of people of the Auckland region), when for nearly two years that water was 'ungraded'.

This complaint was originally lodged with the Commerce Commission against Metrowater, (100% owned by Auckland City Council) for stating in their 2003 Statement of Corporate Intent, 2003 Company Report and in a press statement that Metrowater provided 'A' grade water at a time that they did not.

A claim by Annie King against Watercare and Manukau City Council for misleading advertising relating to the quality of Waikato water as a raw source of drinking water is currently before the Manukau District Court.

It is we, concerned members of the public, who have NO statutory duties, and receive NO fat salaries, who have been acting as the 'public watchdog' - telling the truth, and 'blowing the whistle until our eyeballs bleed.'

If you, as Mayor, deny citizens their rights to tell the truth, then surely it is you as Mayor who is being disrespectful of the 'democratic process'.

It is the Water Pressure Group who has a proven track record of defence of basic democratic and human rights.

Remember the international legal precedent caused by the famous 'Ike Finau signs case', when the Auckland City Council was forced to back down over trying to jail a citizen who had signs on his front lawn saying:

"GE FREE ZONE"

"GOD SAVE THE QUEEN"

"NZ LOYAL" (Supporting Team NZ in the America's Cup - a campaign hosted by Auckland City Council!)

Remember that it was members of the Water Pressure Group who challenged the 2001 Auckland City Local Body elections. On the basis that Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers Now candidates were misrepresenting their policies, by signing secret 'Candidates Loyalty Statements' that supported water privatisation via Public-Private-Partnerships, but were distributing public leaflets claiming to oppose water privatisation.

The Birch Report which came out within a month of our election challenge, proved that the Water Pressure Group had told the truth about the Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers secret privatisation agenda, which you as Mayor supported.

Please, therefore confirm that you will not violate the declaration you signed as Mayor on 25 October 2001, stating:

"City of Auckland Declaration by Mayor

I, John Archibald Banks declare that I will faithfully and impartially, and according to the best of my skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of Auckland City the powers, authorities, and duties vested in me or imposed upon me as Mayor of the Auckland City Council by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Government Official Information and meetings Act 1987, or any other Act."

- by confirming speaking rights for the Water Pressure Group, on urgent matters of considerable public interest related to Metrowater at tonight's Auckland City Council meeting 26 August 2004.

Thanking you in anticipation of your prompt reply.

Penny Bright Media Spokesperson Water Pressure Group (Auckland)

Ph (09) 846 9825

**********

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Open Letter/OIA request to Auckland City Council CEO Bryan Taylor

2 August 2004

BACKGROUND:

Speaking rights were requested for the Water Pressure Group (Auckland) on Wednesday 28 July 2004, for the Auckland City Council meeting of 26 August 2002:

"..to discuss urgent matters relating to Metrowater."

They have been denied by Mayor John Banks for the following reason, in an emailed reply received Friday, 30 July 2004.

"The Mayor has declined your request to address the Council at its 26 August meeting on behalf of the Water Pressure Group.

The grounds for this are the behaviour of Water Pressure Group members at previous meetings."

OIA Request:

Please provide the following information:

a)What behaviour, of which Water Pressure Group (Auckland) members

b) at which Auckland City Council meetings

is being referred? c) Please provide the information that shows that this decision is consistent with Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. "

d) Please provide the information that shows that this decision is consistent with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and Article 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

"Article 19 (Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. "

**********

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 14. Freedom of expression

---Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek,receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form."

**********

e) Please provide the information that shows that this decision is consistent with the declaration signed by Mayor John Banks on 25 October 2001, stating:

"City of Auckland Declaration by Mayor

I, John Archibald Banks declare that I will faithfully and impartially, and according to the best of my skill and judgement, execute and perform, in the best interests of Auckland City the powers, authorities, and duties vested in me or imposed upon me as Mayor of the Auckland City Council by virtue of the Local Government Act 2002, the Local Government Official Information and meetings Act 1987, or any other Act."

e)Under the Local Government Act 2002, it states:

"Section 155

(3) No bylaw may be made which is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, notwithstanding section 4 of that Act."

Please provide the information that shows that this decision is consistent with this principle.

f) Please provide the information that shows upon what grounds, under New Zealand Standing Orders 9202 :1992, is the Mayor declining this request?

(Please note that Standing Orders (NZS 9202:1992)

"2.13 Deputations

Deputations where heard

2.13.1

Deputations may be received by the local authority (or any committees thereof) provided an application for admission setting forth the subject has been lodged with the principal administrative officer at least ten clear days before the date of the meeting concerned and has been subsequently approved by the Chairperson.

The Chairperson may refuse requests for deputations which are repetitious or offensive.

2.13.2

Notwithstanding order 2.13.1, where in the opinion of the Chairperson the matter which is the subject of a deputation is one of urgency or major public interest, the Chairperson may determine that the deputation be received by the local authority."

Please note that this current Auckland City Council has yet to receive a deputation from the Water Pressure Group (Auckland) on matters concerning Metrowater - so - the request can hardly be described as 'repetitious'.

On the few occasions that the Water Pressure Group (Auckland) has been granted speaking rights, there have been no terminations of any such 'deputation in progress', for being 'disrespectful' or 'offensive' - as is permissable under 2.13.5 of the above-mentioned standing orders.

To the contrary, letters have been received from the Auckland City Council, (of which you would still presumably have copies) acknowleging in writing appreciation for making such deputations.

Please be advised that this OIA request has been submitted upon the advice of the Office of the Ombudsmen, and this information will be required for a meeting to be held with the Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission upon her return from overseas after 9 August 2004.

Accordingly, this request is made under urgency provisions of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, Part II, 10 (3) and this information is requested by 5.00pm Friday 6 August 2004.

Of course, if the Mayor grants speaking rights as properly requested by the Water Pressure Group (Auckland), then a reply to this OIA will be unnecessary.

Looking forward to 'commonsense' prevailing, and the democratic rights of citizens to address the Auckland City Council on matters of significant public interest being respected.

Yours sincerely,

Penny Bright Media Spokesperson Water Pressure Group (Auckland)

**********

OFFICIAL INFORMATION REPLY

4 August 2004

Dear Ms Bright

OFFICIAL INFORMATION REQUEST - Refusal of speaking rights

I refer to your e-mail of 2 August 2004, in which you raise various questions related to the refusal of His Worship the Mayor to grant speaking rights to the Water Pressure Group at the Council meeting scheduled to be held on 26 August 2004.

The Council's Standing Orders (2.13) cover the matter of deputations to Council meetings.

This standing order, of which you are aware, is set out below for your information:

"2.13 Deputations

Deputations where heard

2.13.1

Deputations may be received by the local authority (or any committees thereof) provided an application for admission setting forth the subject has been lodged with the principal administrative officer at least ten clear days before the date of the meeting concerned and has been subsequently approved by the Chairperson.

The Chairperson may refuse requests for deputations which are repetitious or offensive.

2.13.2

Notwithstanding order 2.13.1, where in the opinion of the Chairperson the matter which is the subject of a deputation is one of urgency or major public interest, the Chairperson may determine that the deputation be received by the local authority.

2.13.3 Procedures re deputations

Except with the approval of the local authority (or committee therefore) not more than two members of a deputation may address the meeting. After a deputation is received members may put to the deputation any question pertinent to the subject heard, but no member shall express an opinion upon, or discuss the subject, nor move a motion until the deputation has completed making its submissions and answering questions (see 2.23.1 regarding qualified privilege).

2.13.4 Termination of deputation if disrespectful

The Chairperson may terminate a deputation in progress which is disrespectful or offensive, or where the Chairperson has reason to believe statements have been made with malice (see 2.23.1 regarding qualified privilege)

2.13.5 Time limit on deputation

Unless the meeting determines otherwise in any particular case, a limit of five minutes shall be placed on each of the two members of the deputation addressing the meeting."

**********

In the current instance, the Mayor has refused a deputation to Council by members of the Water Pressure Group, based on previous experiences when members of that Group have caused disruption at Council meetings, and have been disrespectful of the democratic process.

Specific incidents of inappropriate behaviour are not recorded by the Council, nor are the names taken of participants in such behaviour.

Your questions with respect to the Universal Declaration of Rights, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and the Mayor's declaration are not requests for "official information" held by this Council and therefore are unable to be responded to.

Yours sincerely

Margaret Allen
Committee Manager"

ENDS

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