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Kapiti Mayor apologises to Osbornes for defamatory comments

Kapiti Mayor apologises to Osbornes for defamatory comments

Kapiti mayor K Gurunathan has apologised to Raechel and Vince Osborne for comments he made in the media criticising them when they attempted to preserve Waikanae’s iconic macrocarpa hedge.

The council demanded the Osbornes trim their hedge back in 2017. Unsuccessful attempts were made to resolve matters. Council then unilaterally pruned the hedge.

In a newspaper column and interviews to Radio New Zealand and Fairfax media, the mayor suggested the Osbornes were selfish, hypocritical and unneighbourly, had engaged in “blackmail” to stop the council doing its job, and had ignored council instructions since 2004 to trim the hedge back.

In a statement the mayor has published today in the Kapiti News, the mayor apologised for his comments. He made it clear that he was “not calling into question Mr and Mrs Osbornes’ character in any way.” In particular, he accepted that the Osbornes hadn’t committed any criminal offence, were not selfish and hypocritical, and had not disobeyed council instructions in 2004.

A copy of the mayor’s statement is attached.

The apology brings to an end the defamation case the Osbornes brought against the mayor in 2017. The Osborne’s very reluctantly issued proceedings in the High Court, seeking an apology, damages and costs after the mayor had refused to apologise early on.

“We are delighted that the mayor has apologised,” said Raechel Osborne. “The things he said were hurtful and untrue. We feel fully vindicated with this settlement.”

The terms of the settlement require confidentiality. However, Ms Osborne said, “We are very happy with the settlement.”

For further comment, please contact the Osbornes’ barrister, Steven Price 022 026 2997.

Apology by Gurunathan Krisnasamy to Mr and Mrs Osborne

In 2017 Mr Gurunathan was involved in the publication of three items in the media about Mr and Mrs Osborne and their macrocarpa hedge located on the road frontage on Te Moana Road in Waikanae. In those publications Mr Gurunathan said:

Kapiti News Column 22 March 2017

• “…Those committed to social justice have always embraced community values. But in the scramble to react against specific issue-based threats we can sometimes undermine the very values we claim to champion…

• “…The Osbornes know for themselves the safety risk posed by the hedge.”

• “That’s why at the intersection of their driveway with Te Moana Road, they have sculptured the hedge on their right. They have cut more than a metre to create a clear view of the west-bound traffic. Cut right back to their boundary…”

• “… In providing this solution they have held themselves accountable to safeguard their own lives and reduce the risk to oncoming drivers, cyclists and walkers”

• “… the Osbornes’ design solution to guard their own safety.”

Stuff website article, 3 June 2017

• “…They [the Osbornes] are blackmailing the council to stop us from doing our job”.

RNZ’s Checkpoint programme, 12 June 2017

• “the Osbornes were told in 2004 to trim it back for safety reasons. Had they listened to that, and you can incrementally manage that, macrocarpas can grow back so it would be green, in the long term you could still keep it green. So that is individual responsibility, they didn’t exercise that back in 2004. The present situation is what we’ve got now.

• “…what people haven’t talked to, or the person they should really have talked to are the neighbours at number 82 Te Moana Road… Nobody has talked to them.”

• “…And they’ve been told since 2004 to trim it back by the then Chief Executive. They have the individual responsibility for this.”

• “…they have put up a fight every time the Council has wanted to trim it back or asked them to trim it back, this is the behaviour we’ve had.

The Osbornes took this mean that they were selfish and hypocritical and put their safety ahead of their neighbours and others, were blackmailing the Council, had not bothered to speak to their neighbours, and had not followed Council instructions to trim the macrocarpa hedge.

If those meanings have been taken from the publication Mr Gurunathan wishes to make it clear that those meanings were not intended to be conveyed by him.

In particular, Mr Gurunathan:

• Does not think that the Osbornes were selfish or hypocritical;

• Does not consider the Osbornes were guilty of a criminal offence when he used the word “blackmail”;

• Did not consider the Osbornes themselves were putting improper pressure on the Council;

• Accepts that the Osbornes had spoken to the neighbours at 82 Te Moana Rd but that the media had not spoken to the neighbours;

• Accepts that in 2004 the Osbornes complied with the developers’ and Council’s request to cut back the hedge;

• Accepts that the Osbornes have regularly trimmed the hedge but believes that it has not been trimmed actively enough to prevent the hedge expanding into the road reserve.

Mr Gurunathan apologises for the distress caused to Mr and Mrs Osborne as a result of the three publications and wished to make it clear that he was not calling into question Mr and Mrs Osbornes’ character in any way and did not mean any malice or ill-will.


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