Case Number: 648

Council Meeting: APRIL 1997

Verdict: Upheld

Publication: Kapiti Observer

The New Zealand Press Council has upheld a complaint by Mr Mark Holland, a member of the Waikanae Community Board against a report in the Kapiti Observer on 30 September.

Headed “Board bungle means pool leaks continue” the article concerned a failure to fix a major leak at the Waikanae swimming pool.

Mr Holland contended - and the Press Council agreed - that the report breached good press practice because it incorporated factual errors, and lacked balance, because Community Board members’ views on the matter had not been solicited.

The editor of the Kapiti Observer Mr Richard Woodd initially suggested that minutes of a Community Board meeting on 24 July, might have been “doctored” to add a resolution on repairing pool leaks, which, he declared, had not been put at the meeting.
He also responded that a lengthy letter to the editor which he published, from three Board members including Mr Holland, had constituted a “fair and reasonable right of reply” on issues raised by the article of 30 September.

However on the issue of alleged minute tampering - a claim which press councillors considered most serious and in the circumstances, injudicious - Mr Woodd had later conceded that the board might have adopted a formal resolution after he had left the meeting.

The editor had accepted that there were deficiencies in the report, unlike an earlier version carried in late July which all concerned agreed had been unexceptionable.

Upholding the complaint accordingly, the Press Council found that the letter to the editor published a week later had not, of itself, constituted adequate correction or redress. It also endorsed the complainant’s submission that fairness, if not indeed also the standard practice, should also have seen criticism by the Mayor of the Kapiti Coast and by a district council official, referred to the Community Board members for response before publication.