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Whangarei council is politicking against democracy


RAM - Residents Action Movement

Media release 17 September 2008
Whangarei council is 'politicking against democracy' says residents movement

In three days time, the People's Procession to Parliament will kick off in Kaitaia, carrying a GST-off-food petition through North Island towns on a two-week motorised caravan.

The petition already has 20,000 signatures, and many more are expected to sign during the People's Procession. A Research New Zealand poll conducted in June 2008 found that "80% of Kiwis think the government should consider lowering tax on food".

"It is no exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of Kiwis want to see GST come off food," said Grant Morgan, chair of the Residents Action Movement (RAM) which is organising the People's Procession. "Our GST-off-food petition is very popular with most folk."

"But our petition isn't popular with the Whangarei council. They've banned us from the best spot in town. The council is way out of step with majority opinion," said Mr Morgan.

The Whangarei District Council (WDC) imposed a ban on a People's Procession petition stall in Cameron St Mall, which carries the most pedestrian traffic in the city. The council refused a permit on the grounds that the petition is a political event.

"If gathering signatures for a GST-off-food petition is political, then banning this democratic activity means the council is politicking against democracy," said Mr Morgan.

Grant Couchman, WDC regulatory services manager, has told the media that RAM could be fined up to $20,000 if the petition stall goes ahead.

"RAM will not be browbeaten by council threats of a $20,000 fine for putting up a petition stall on a popular issue in the most popular spot in town," responded Mr Morgan.

"Our petition will go ahead in the Cameron St Mall as advertised on Tuesday 23 September, starting at 12 noon. If the council wants to turn this peaceful and democratic activity into some sort of High Noon confrontation, the fault will be theirs, not ours. We're not looking for any trouble."

"If the council tries to fine me, I would rather go to jail than pay it," said Mr Morgan. "There is a democratic principle at stake that's too important to walk away from."

"I think it's time for Whangarei mayor Stan Semenoff to say where he stands on his council's campaign against democracy in Cameron St Mall. Does he support a council bureaucrat threatening RAM with a $20,000 fine for running a petition? Or will he side with the majority of Kiwis who support our GST-off-food petition?" asked Mr Morgan.

"I question why the Whangarei council is so out of line with other councils around the North Island who have granted permission for a People's Procession petition stall."

"I call on the residents of Whangarei to support RAM's reasonable request to hold a petition stall in Cameron St Mall."

"Apart from the obstruction by Whangarei council, planning for the rest of the People's Procession is going smoothly," said Mr Morgan.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira will help RAM to launch the People's Procession in Kaitaia at 9am this Saturday, 20 September.

Branches of Grey Power are working alongside RAM to help make the procession a success.

Mass signings of the GST-off-food petition will be held in sixteen North Island centres.

On Friday 3 October, at the steps of Parliament, the petition will be handed over to Maori Party MPs, the only ones in the current parliament who support the removal of tax from food.


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