Case Number: 3378

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters

Ruling Categories: Columnists Opinion
Comment and Fact
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation
Readers Comments
Social Media


The New Zealand Herald published a story on January 15, 2023, headed Wayne Brown’s ‘staggering’ $123k legal bill, plus his $5k a week chief of staff.  The article said that after vowing to slash council salaries, Auckland mayor Wayne Brown was paying almost $6000 a week to his chief of staff. Other councillors were asked for their reaction to the spending and the Auckland Council and a spokesperson for the mayoral office were also quoted.

Neil Taylor complained that the article was an example of the New Zealand Herald “continuing to undermine Wayne Brown”. Mr Brown had obviously got on the wrong side of the Herald and they were picking on him and trying to make him look bad, Mr Taylor said. The comments on the article were almost all in favour of Mr Brown, Mr Taylor said, although after he complained, some comments agreeing with the story were published.

 Mr Taylor complained about the difficulty of finding the formal complaints contact details on the Herald website, which the Media Council is addressing with the Herald. 

 Mr Taylor also complained the paper was controlling comments and only posting those that were favourable to its news. He asked for a copy of all the comments published (and not published) by the Herald over the last three years.

 This last request for a review of comments over several years is outside the Media Council complaints process, and will not be considered.

 Regarding the January 15 article, the Herald replied that this was a standard news story. Mr Brown was elected on a platform of cutting executive and middle management salaries. “Media organisations serve as the public and ratepayers' ears and eyes by scrutinising council spending," the Herald said.  The story canvassed reaction to the spending from other councillors. Mr Taylor’s suggestion that the comments on the story virtually all agreed with Mr Brown, yet the Herald was controlling comments, was counter-intuitive, the Herald said.

 The Media Council believes this is a straightforward example of public affairs journalism comparing the mayor’s pre-election statements with the actions of the council under his watch.   The article included comments from the mayor’s office and sources who were generally supportive of Mr Brown, so there was no lack of balance. No factual inaccuracies have been alleged. On the matter of comments, the Council finds that a mix of comments in favour and against Mr Brown’s actions were published. No principles have been breached.


Decision: No grounds to proceed.


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