Case Number: 620

Council Meeting: AUGUST 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: NULL

The Press Council has not upheld a complaint by Mr Ian Andrews, of Epsom, Auckland, over reporting by the Gulf News, a community newspaper on Waiheke Island.

Mr Andrews cited two articles, the first published in late September 1995, and the second on 26 April this year, both of which obliged the newspaper to carry subsequent corrections and apologies to him.

The reports dealt with different aspects of his relationship to plans by authorities to flush stagnant or polluted streams on Waiheke.

Mr Andrews protested to the Press Council that the paper had displayed an extreme and reckless disregard for objectivity and had breached journalistic ethics. He also alleged that the editor of the Gulf News had conducted a personal vendetta against him.

Responding the editor denied any such vendetta; Mr Andrews, she told the Council, had before and since the most recent inadvertent error enjoyed access to the paper’s correspondence columns and his long-standing one-man campaign against sewerage management on the island had been editorially acknowledged.

The error of 26 April - incorrectly reporting the rejection of a planning appeal by Mr Andrews - had arisen following a mistake by, and misinformation from, the Auckland Regional Council. A civic official had conceded as much.

Accepting that, the Press Council nevertheless admonished the Gulf News for not having verified more carefully what it had been told. Had it checked with Mr Andrews - which would have been natural enough in such circumstances - neither of the errors cited by the complainant would have occurred.

The first error, in September, could not be formally considered by the Council because it was out of time under council rules, as Mr Andrews himself had acknowledged.

Press councillors found that the second error had been promptly and publicly correccted and explained, with an adequate apology for Mr Andrews, accompanied by an explicit admission that he should have been approached to discuss the status of his appeal.