LORRAINE ADAMS AGAINST THE OAMARU MAIL

Case Number: 825

Council Meeting: May 2001

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Oamaru Mail

Ruling Categories: Privacy
Discrimination
Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication

This is a complaint by Lorraine Adams about an article published in the Oamaru Mail on 26 January 2001 for which she sought an apology from the newspaper.

In the article a Department of Conservation officer claimed to be angry that Miss Adams had gone directly to the press with her concerns about the blue penguin colony, rather than taking the matter up with the Department of Conservation or the Waitaki District Council. The officer was reported as saying "I do not like Lorraine campaigning in the press before she has had the courtesy to speak to the appropriate people. It is very rude of her." He claimed Miss Adams suggestion that dogs be completely banned from the beach would be "a complete waste of time." Dogs were already banned from the beach after sunset and were required to be on a lead during daylight hours. The recent penguin deaths had occurred at night and were caused by dogs that were "obviously uncontrolled." He also believed drivers of vehicles in the area were subject to enough advice through signage, and speed humps to protect the penguins.

The DOC officer was responding to comments from Miss Adams reported in the previous day's Oamaru Mail calling for the entire Oamaru harbour to be a dog-free zone and a speed restriction of 10 to 15 kmh in the harbour area or banning cars from the harbour. Miss Adams was reported as being devastated at the killing of 57 penguins by a dog or dogs the previous weekend. Miss Adams was also reported as saying the council needed to "think outside the square of the quarry" to protect all the penguins in the harbour.

The DOC officer was approached for comment by the Oamaru Mail before the 25 January article was published but chose not to comment.

The editor of the Oamaru Mail said they were unaware Miss Adams wanted an apology from the newspaper. The comments printed on 25 and 26 January were part of a long-running saga of differences of opinion between Miss Adams and other penguin workers, including DOC officers. In all coverage the Oamaru Mail has endeavoured to print both sides of the story.

The Press Council noted that this was robust comment from both sides in a heated local debate. It was thought that Miss Adams's grounds for complaint were not valid.

The Council noted that the matter may have become less fraught had the comments of Miss Adams and the DOC officer been published in the same article, rather than on consecutive days.

The Council does not uphold the complaint.