Case Number: 2947

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2020

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Accuracy


Iam Kurd complained about an article published in The Press and on Stuff on September 2 as part of a series marking the 10th anniversary of the first Christchurch earthquake.

The article was based on an interview with Mike Coleman, an Anglican priest and school counsellor who became an activist on behalf of people who lost their homes in the city’s red zones.

The article reported Mr Coleman’s opinion that if the government overseeing Christchurch’s quake response “had been in charge now (during covid-19) we’d have…3000 to 4000 elderly folk dead.”

Mr Kurd said Mr Coleman was not qualified to express an expert opinion and nor were there any facts in the article to support that opinion. While Mr Coleman was free to say what he liked, including comment on how the government at that time might have handled the current pandemic, it was sensationalist for Stuff/The Press to publish his speculation and conjecture about a theoretical number of deaths without a proper factual foundation.

Stuff responded that it believed the views expressed were honestly held by Mr Coleman and there were facts to support his opinion. He was closely involved in dealing with the then National Government on behalf of many red zone homeowners so was familiar with the way it interacted with the public.

In considering this complaint the Media Council noted Stuff made it clear it was reporting Mr Coleman’s opinion. It was open to him to reach a view based on a close knowledge of what happened in the response to the Christchurch earthquake. His view might have been right or wrong, but there is nothing to show that he was relying on incorrect facts from his earthquake experience, about which he plainly held strong views. The article set out Mr Coleman’s background and was not presenting him as any sort of expert on Covid-19 and its statistics.

There are therefore No grounds for complaint.