LORRAINE ADAMS AGAINST THE OAMARU MAIL

Case Number: 1006

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2005

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Oamaru Mail

Ruling Categories: Accuracy

Lorraine Adams has complained about an article published in The Oamaru Mail in mid-August 2004. The article concerned a proposal to create a new daytime viewing area at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Specifically, it reported on submissions made at a public meeting of the District Council by Susan Houston, General Manager of the Waitaki Development Board, which oversees the colony. In the course of her submission, Ms Houston referred to other parties, which included Ms Adams, whom the Board had consulted that supported the proposal. Ms Adams says that she does not support the proposal and the paper should have checked her stance before referring to her in the article.

The editor has provided the Council with copies of the reporter’s notes which record that Ms Houston told the District Council that Ms Adams had been consulted and “she is quite comfortable with daytime viewing.” The editor also contacted Ms Houston, in response to this complaint. Ms Houston advised that she had met with Ms Adams on 2 August and outlined the proposal to her. Ms Adams said she had “no real problems with the proposed daytime viewing facility if certain welfare related conditions were met but that she would absolutely oppose night time viewing.” Those conditions were included in the proposal that was put to the District Council. Further, the editor notes that a letter to the editor from Ms Adams was published on 17 August 2004. In that letter, Ms Adams said that it was incorrect to say she supported the proposal.

In response, Ms Adams accepts that she met with Ms Houston to discuss the proposal but that “there is no point opposing something when it is going to proceed.” It was on that basis that she had suggested the welfare conditions but, she says, that does not mean that she supported the proposal. That is why she wrote a letter to the editor clarifying her position.

In the view of the Press Council, The Oamaru Mail exercised an appropriate amount of care. The paper is not required to check submissions made in a public meeting and there was nothing to suggest that it would be prudent to check such a minor detail. The only opposition Ms Adams communicated to Ms Houston concerned night-time viewing and that was not the subject of the article. In any event, any possible misunderstanding arising out of the subtle difference between a lack of opposition to and support for the proposal was squarely addressed when Ms Adams’ letter to the editor was published.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Jeffries (Chairman), Ruth Buddicom, Aroha Puata, Suzanne Carty, Lynn Scott, Alan Samson, Keith Lees, Murray Williams, Denis McLean and Terry Snow.