Case Number: 715

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 1998

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Hutt News

The New Zealand Press Council has not upheld a complaint and commended the Hutt News for its handling of the story which was the subject of a complaint.

The story in question revolved around a long-running campaign by Wainuiomata resident, Mr Don Dingwall to have a bridge built over a local creek to improve access for residents.

In May 1998 the Hutt News published a lengthy background article summing up the history of the issue. Accompanying it was a shorter article carrying Mr Dingwall’s response which accused the paper of bias and challenged several points, including in particular, figures drawn from the Hutt City Council reports on the cost of the project.

Mr Dingwall subsequently wrote a letter to the newspaper continuing his attack on the article and expanding on his challenge to the information about the cost of the bridge.
The editor declined to publish the letter on the grounds that it added nothing new to an already widely canvassed debate and contained a number of inaccuracies. Mr Dingwall then raised the matter with the Press Council.

The Council felt the Hutt News article was well researched, clearly documented the source of the various figures quoted and provided an excellent background to the issue. It considered the paper had bent over backwards to be fair to Mr Dingwall by allowing him to read the article before it appeared, delayed publication to give him time to respond, making changes to accommodate some of his criticisms and allowing
him space for a contrary viewpoint. The main point raised by Mr Dingwall in his letter to the editor had been well covered in the main article and in Mr Dingwall’s published comments. The editor was entirely within his rights to decline to publish the letter.

The Council therefore declined the complaint.