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How Widespread Is Surveillance Of NZ People?

How Widespread Is Surveillance Of New Zealand People?

Current allegations of spying on Maori activists raises the still unresolved issue of the photographing of a peaceful protest outside the Greymouth ACC office earlier this year in support of a wheelchair-bound Hokitika man.

Following the spotting of a camera pointed at the protest group from a car stopped opposite, the vehicle was traced to international re-location organisation SIRVA whose New Zealand manager, Graham Sutcliffe, replied to enquiries from local advocacy group spokesman David Tranter by claiming that the photography was prompted by idle curiosity while their employees were stopped at the traffic lights (there are no traffic lights on the West Coast).

Following a request for copies of the photographs Mr. Sutcliffe said SIRVA's lawyer would release these if Mr. Tranter publicly retracted the story of the incident which had appeared on several websites.

This aroused suspicions because Mr. Sutcliffe had already admitted the incident occurred - and if his lawyer had released the photos to David Tranter it would have further confirmed it happened.

The only logical explanation for Mr. Sutcliffe's suggestion that the story be retracted is that had this been done SIRVA would not have released the photos, “… they would have got off the hook, and I would have been discredited out of my own mouth” Mr. Tranter said.

Suspicions were further heightened when ACC's Senior Advisor Customer Relations Paul Miller replied to enquiries about SIRVA by stating, "ACC has no contractual arrangement with SIRVA " (letter dated 27.9.04) - yet when SIRVA lost ACC papers recently in Dunedin Mr. Sutcliffe stated in the media, "....SIRVA had been in contact with its client ACC...." (Otago Daily Times).

Subsequent enquiries to ACC Minister Ruth Dyson have produced highly evasive answers and the recent statement from her that she had instructed ACC to write to Mr. Tranter again about the matter. They have not done so.

Given the contradictory responses to the above incident and that ACC client advocacy groups are aware of surveillance of ACC clients elsewhere, the Democrats and the ACC advocacy organisation Acclaim are calling on Ruth Dyson for an enquiry into the surveillance and harassment of ACC claimants and activists including the roles of SIRVA and the Distillery, an Australian based intelligence organisation training N.Z. corporate management teams about security and people “profiling”.

Other recent events include the trumped-up timing of an arrest of ACC advocate Graham Willson while on his way to make submissions on ACC at a Select Committee hearing. Mr. Willson reports being placed under surveillance at his Picton home and while travelling.

“This, coupled with the known surveillance of three Christchurch claimants and similar other occurrences known to ACC activists, all suggests that surveillance of ACC claimants and advocacy activists may be widespread” Mr. Tranter said.

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