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Waitomo District Council Undermining Free Speech, Democracy

“Waitomo District Council is undermining freedom of expression and local democracy. Its new rules mean those elected by the people to hold the council bureaucracy accountable are gagged by the council bureaucracy,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The code is an attempt to silence a single councillor and by bureaucrats to meddle in the relationship between voters and representatives.

“The response to a Facebook post from councillor John Robertson has been to police councillors’ social media use and interactions with local media.

“The social media section of the code says elected members who want to have an official council Facebook page will now have it administered by council staff. That is completely unacceptable.

“Councillors will also be encouraged to filter their comments to media through council communications staff.

“The local bureaucrats at the Waitomo District Council are getting in between voters and their elected representatives. Councillors are accountable to the voters, not the bureaucrats.

“It’s also completely unacceptable that some councillors are discouraging their colleagues from speaking directly to media.

“This kind of meddling will limit the ability of politicians to have direct interaction with the voters and the media and will reduce transparency and accountability in local democracy.”

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