Case Number: 3063

Council Meeting: JUNE 2021

Decision: Not Upheld

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of


1. Jeremy Penrice complains about a Stuff story Wellington’s electric ferry is close but it may be next year before it can do full schedule published on April 6, 2021. He made two complaints to the Media Council. Both are examined in this decision.

2. He alleges breaches of Principle 1: Accuracy fairness and balance, Principle 4: Comment and fact. A second complaint alleges a breach of Principle 10: Conflict of interest. He also makes claims of plagiarism by Stuff.

3. The complaints are not upheld.

The Story

4. The story says an East by West Ferries’ all electric ferry was expected to be operating in May, but it could be a year before a full schedule of EWF electric ferry Wellington Harbour crossings was available.

5. The story says this is because batteries which power the ferry won’t be able to be charged quickly enough.

6. The story says more powerful battery chargers are available, but their arrival has been delayed as the Covid 19 pandemic had held up work on the international standard they would be manufactured to

The Complaint

7. Mr Penrice says he called a Stuff journalist with specific information about two companies associated with the electric ferry.

8. He complains that the journalist has omitted information when writing the story and the published story is unbalanced.

9. The journalist has also used information supplied by Mr Penrice and committed plagiarism. Mr Penrice says he is seeking a retraction.

10. He lodged a second complaint with the Media Council that alleges a conflict of interest by Stuff in writing a story and not including the information that Mr Penrice supplied.

11. The result is a “quick gloss over’ article ‘’without consulting me the author’’, he says

The Response

12. Stuff chief news director (business) Roeland van den Bergh says the reporter treated the call from Mr Penrice as a news tip and hearsay, given its second hand nature. He told Mr Penrice he would look into the matters.

13. Mr van den Bergh says the reporter obtained comment from EWF and the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority and wrote a story.

14. “…. which reported that the ferry might not be able to service a full schedule for a year or more because the Covid 19 pandemic had delayed development of a 1 megawatt charger which might be needed to allow for a full service’’.

15. Mr van den Bergh says using and evaluating information is an accepted method of news gathering and reporting. It was apparent to the reporter that Mr Penrice approached Stuff in the hope a story would be written.

16. Mr van den Bergh says it is unclear what Mr Penrice means by being the ‘author’.

17. The resulting story was ‘fair, accurate and balanced’ and did not represent a conflict of interest, or plagiarism.

The Discussion

18. The complaint is not upheld –Mr Penrice’s complaint lacks evidential substance.

19. The fact that Mr Penrice gave a reporter information, that was not reflected to his liking in the resulting story is not cause for a Media Council uphold.

20. Mr Penrice has called a reporter, made allegations, and the reporter said the allegations would be looked into. There is no suggestion from Stuff or the complainant, that Mr Penrice had his comments noted or recorded, to be reported in a story.

21. Mr Penrice alleges plagiarism – the Media Council can see no evidence of this. He gave a reporter a news tip. The reporter carried out due diligence, asked questions, sought comment from the appropriate parties and wrote a story. That is good journalism.

22. Mr Penrice refers to himself as the ‘author’ of the story. How he reaches this conclusion, based on the information in this complaint, is beyond the Media Council.

Media Council members considering this complaint were Hon Raynor Asher, Rosemary Barraclough, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Ben France-Hudson, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff and Tim Watkin.

Jonathan MacKenzie stood down to maintain the public member majority.


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