Case Number: 2748

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2019

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Accuracy


John Hurley complained about comment in a long article published inThe Press on October 26, 2019 headlined Christchurch and its search for a post-recovery sense of purpose.

The story included comment by Canterbury University history professor Katie Pickles who talked about the evolving perspectives of Christchurch over its history, starting from its early colonial settlement and its modern identity following the earthquakes and more recently the mosque shootings.

Mr Hurley objected to one sentence:

With local Maori moved to the edge of the map and a strange landscape tamed with daffodils, oaks and roses, Christchurch could become completely absorbed in its own self-invention.

He said this implied the Maori were displaced from the area; a concept which he suspected was ideologically motivated.

Mr Hurley based his argument on an absence of archaeological evidence to support a claim made in a promotional video that Victoria Square was an important meeting and market place for Ngai Tahu.

Whether or not Victoria Square was occupied or used by Maori was not mentioned in the article and the Media Council considers it is not germane to this complaint. There is no dispute that Ngai Tahu lived around and used the area that is now Christchurch prior to the establishment of colonial settlement in Canterbury. Professor Pickles’ comment was plainly an expression of opinion and part of a generalised metaphor.

The Media Council principles make provision for the free expression of opinion where it is clearly presented as such and where material facts on which the opinion is based have a factual foundation. Professor Pickles was entitled to express her opinion on this subject and The Press was entitled to report her views.

No Grounds to Proceed