F NEWMAN AGAINST WHANGAREI LEADER

Case Number: 701

Council Meeting: JULY 1998

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Whangarei Leader

The New Zealand Press Council has not upheld a complaint from Frank Newman
against the Whangarei Leader newspaper. The subject of the complaint was a front page article, published on 10 February under the heading “Newman rates bid rejected.”

The article reported the decision of the Land Valuation Tribunal to an objection, made by Mr Newman and his wife to an earlier refusal of a Rates Postponement Valuation (RPV). The article consisted almost entirely of information from the Land Valuation Tribunal’s decision and additional background about RPV’s. There was also brief speculation on the amount the Newmans might have saved had their appeal been successful.

Mr Newman complained that the article was unbalanced and misleading and further, that he should have been consulted prior to publication. He felt readers would believe he had sought the hearing for personal gain. In fact, he said, he had appealed only to establish guidelines for those on smaller lots.

Of further concern to Mr Newman was the suggestion that a saving in rates of more than $2,000 rested on the Land Valuation Tribunal’s decision. Other newspapers, of whom Mr Newman spoke well, suggested annual savings in the range of $500 to $1,000 per year.

The Whangarei Leader in its defence, pointed to the Tribunal’s decision, the source for much of the article. It also defended the suggestion that the Newmans could have saved $2,000 per year in rates. This had been checked with a relevant district council officer and was in line with similar decisions locally.

In the Press Council’s view the article did not attempt to identify the Newmans’ motives for going to the Land Valuation Tribunal. It simply explained what an RPV was and reported the decision. The motivation for the Newmans’ objection is a matter for them and is not relevant to their complaint.

As the article was a report of a decision there was no need for the Whangarei Leader to consult anyone prior to publication. Not seeking nor publishing comments from Mr or Mrs Newman does not make the paper guilty of writing an unbalanced or misleading article. The use of a credible estimate of the possible saving on rates was reasonable.
The Council does not uphold the complaint.