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Westfield decision anti-democratic, irresponsible

10 August 2005

Westfield's decision anti-democratic and irresponsible

Green Party Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke has criticised international mall company Westfield for preventing voter enrolment officers from setting up stalls in their shopping complexes.

Westfield is refusing to allow the enrolment officers into their malls unless they pay a $2500-a-week fee for each enrolment stall.

"Shopping malls are part of their local communities and are a key gathering place for many people," Auckland-based Mr Locke says.

"Westfield should be exhibiting a modicum of community responsibility, rather than trying to make a quick buck off the democratic process at the taxpayer's expense.

"Our democracy is strong when as many Kiwis as possible are enrolled to vote. The Electoral Enrolment Centre is trying to target some under-enrolled groups, like Maori and Pacific peoples, who make up a large part of the clientele in some of Westfield's malls.

"It's an abrogation of Westfield's community responsibility to stand in the way of this invaluable enrolment drive by charging fees that the Electoral Enrolment Centre can't meet."

Mr Locke says Westfield's decision underlined the downsides of the trend from the street shopping towards privately-owned malls.

"The footpaths outside street shops are public space and can be freely used for petitioning, stalls, busking, even political protesting. Perhaps we need new by-laws to require such commercially-operated, and often foreign-owned, malls to open up to free community activities, including enrolling voters."

Mr Locke says he would be writing to Westfield's Marketing Manager Linda Trainer asking her to reconsider the company's decision.

ENDS

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