A complaint to the New Zealand Press Council by Darryl Dawson about inaccuracies in an article in the community newspaper, the Eastern Bay News, on the removal and stockpiling of sand from a spit by a Whakatane local authority, has not been upheld.

The Complaint
On September 18, 2008, the Eastern Bay News published an article about the removal of sand from a spit to an area known as the Bennett Block where it would be stockpiled before being used to replenish Ohope Beach. Some 3100 tonnes had been removed.
The article said that one-third of that total had come from under the mean high water spring, which meant the council had to pay royalties of $1.70 a cubic metre. The Whakatane District Council’s chief executive was quoted as saying the council was unaware of that requirement but it had “sorted it out” and paid the bill.
The chief executive was also quoted as saying some 203 tonnes of sand had been sold but this would not meet moving costs or royalties. The council was not in the business of selling sand and there was no more for sale.
Stockpiling the sand had nothing to do with a Marina Society or a marina proposal, for which the council and the society were seeking to agree on a memorandum of understanding.
On September 29, Mr Dawson wrote to the chief reporter of The Daily Post, Rotorua, which oversees publication of the News, complaining about inaccuracies. He said the sand was not stored on Bennett Block, it was at an area known as 100-acre Block. The council chief executive said the bill for royalties had been paid but when he checked with Environment Bay of Plenty, it had not been paid.
Two-thirds of the stockpile had come from mean high water spring, not one-third, and it was also incorrect to say the council was not in the business of selling sand, as another council officer had told him in a letter that it was.
The sand and the marina proposal were also not “completely different issues” as the chief executive had said because the council had a consent to dump sand on the proposed marina site and was applying for a new 35-year consent to dump sand there, Mr Dawson said.
On October 9, the Eastern Bay News, under the heading “Clarification,” corrected the name of the area where the sand was being deposited. It also reported that while the original article said the royalty money had been paid, at the time it had only been approved for payment. Environment Bay of Plenty subsequently confirmed payment had been made.
Not satisfied, Mr Dawson complained to the Press Council.

The Newspaper’s Response
The Daily Post’s editor, Scott Inglis, said the paper was incorrect in reporting where the sand was stockpiled, and had simply quoted what the council chief executive had said about the payment of royalties. Both of those points had been addressed in the clarification.
It was also incorrect to say one-third of the sand came from under the mean high water spring. This was accidentally omitted from the clarification, for which the editor said the paper apologised. If Mr Dawson wished, the paper would run a correction.
Mr Dawson’s point of complaint about the council selling sand was out of context. The chief executive was saying no more of the stockpiled sand would be sold and that selling sand was not a core business of the council.
The complaint about the marina proposal and the sand being “completely different issues” related to the chief executive’s interpretation of the facts, and the newspaper accepted what was said in good faith.
In his response, Mr Dawson said he would like the Eastern Bay News to correct the proportion of sand taken from under the mean high water spring. He was unhappy about the royalty payment clarification and he believed the heading should have read Correction, not Clarification.

By correcting the errors about the position of the stockpile and when the royalty payments were made, the newspaper has met its obligations about accuracy.
The accidental omission of a correction about how much sand had come from under the mean high water spring was unfortunate, but its offer to run a correction if Mr Dawson wishes was proper. In such circumstances, it would be unfair to uphold on that point alone.
The council’s policy on selling sand and whether the marina proposal and the sand removal are “completely different issues” are opinions from a senior council officer and the newspaper was justified in quoting her.
Mr Dawson’s point about the use of the word Clarification in the heading and that the word, Correction, was more suitable for the article of October 9 is reasonable. The article is indeed a correction but while the heading is not as clear as Mr Dawson would wish, the newspaper has met its obligations to address the minor inaccuracies in its original report.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Aroha Beck, Ruth Buddicom, Kate Coughlan, John Gardner, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, Denis McLean, Alan Samson and Lynn Scott.


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