Case Number: 3417

Council Meeting: 7 AUGUST 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Headlines and Captions

Ruling Categories: Court Reporting
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation
Unfair Coverage

Stuff published two stories on March 15 and 17, 2023 relating to the liquidation of NZ Tiny Homes. The first was headlined Liquidated NZ Tiny Homes made to release unfinished homes to purchasers. The second was headlined Tiny home purchaser fears she’s lost $123k deposit to liquidated company.

Ms Marfleet complained the articles were not fair as they depicted the company’s owner Jamie Cameron in a bad light. It came across that Mr Cameron was holding the houses and money back from the purchasers, when this was not the case, and there was no explanation of the liquidation process so the readers could understand they were trying to sell the homes.

She said that writing two articles within two days of each other and not giving Mr Cameron the right of reply and writing them in a manner that is not accurate is defamation and verging on a personal attack. Publishing a photo of Mr Cameron showed a lack of respect for his privacy.

Stuff responded saying the first article clearly referred to the company as having been liquidated and that the court proceedings were to do with the liquidators and not Mr Cameron. It made one reference to him as the owner when the company went into liquidation. It was also fair and appropriate to illustrate the article with a photo of Mr Cameron given the previous reporting it had done on his business.

Stuff said there was no suggestion in the articles that Mr Cameron was holding houses or money back from purchasers, and there was no obligation to provide a detailed explanation of the liquidation process as such proceedings were routinely reported.

There was also no obligation to go around the parties to seek comment on the judge’s decision which was reported in the first story. The second article was a valid follow-up on a customer who had lost money as a result of the company’s failure.

Stuff added that its reporter had tried to contact Mr Cameron. However, his formal involvement in the business ceased when it was put into liquidation, and it was not essential to the story to have comment from him on matters that had taken place since the liquidators took over.

The liquidation process was newsworthy, Stuff was within its rights to report on it and Mr Cameron’s association with this business was on the public record.  It would be surprising  for an article about any business going through liquidation to not reference who its owner was.

The Media Council notes the articles made it clear that the company was in liquidation and therefore in the hands of a liquidator. It is implicit that the former owner no longer had control over the company’s affairs.

As for portraying Mr Cameron in a bad light, that usually goes with the territory for operators of businesses that fail and leave a trail of unpaid creditors. It is fair to report fully on that.

Stuff attempted to contact Mr Cameron and it appears he has not responded to a request for an interview. It is still open to Mr Cameron to do so.

There is nothing to show the articles were inaccurate, unbalanced or unfair.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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