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Wellington Council seeks to muzzle its critics

26 July 2006

Wellington City Council seeks to muzzle its critics

The Green Party is concerned that the Wellington City Council is trying to muzzle critics of its intention to scrap the mobile library, and prevent them from voting on whether or not to retain the service.

Attempts by Wellington City Council to prevent Councillor Jack Ruben from speaking out or voting on the Council's plans to scrap its mobile library service should be of concern to every believer in open government, Green Party Local Government Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"Cr Ruben has been warned in writing that he should declare a 'conflict of interest' and withdraw from discussion and voting, since he has allegedly displayed a closed mind on this issue, as evidenced in his emails on the subject.

"A double standard seems to be at work here. Repeatedly, deputy mayor Alick Shaw has stated that the mobile library service should be scrapped, without similar sanctions being brought to bear on him.

" On 28 April for instance, Cr Shaw told National Radio that he thought the mobile library should cease. The Wellingtonian, 4 May 2006. carried Cr Shaw's views on the mobile library and his belief that it should go. On the front page of the 30 May Independent Herald, Cr Shaw says the mobile library service should go. On page A5 of the Dominion Post on 20 June, Cr Shaw says the mobile service should go.

"If it is good enough for Cr Shaw to expound his strongly held views in public, critics of the library decision should also be allowed the same liberties," Ms Kedgley says.

"The existing injunctions against 'closed minds' were not meant to stifle debate and voting on of contentious issues. They were supposed to ensure that genuine consultation and consideration of issues takes place

" That can hardly happen when the Council is apparently seeking to muzzle its critics. It is a bit rich for the Wellington City Council to be rushing to defend the process of consultation from Cr Ruben's influence, when the Council itself seems to have completely ignored the majority of the public submissions made during the consultation process, 90 percent of which were in favour of retaining the mobile library.

"Personally, I think the mobile library performs an incredibly valuable social service - especially for solo mums, the aged and the unemployed. If the service was retained and upgraded, patronage would increase. I also believe co -sponsors should be actively sought, in order to help defray the costs involved."


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