REYNOLD MACPHERSON AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD AND ROTORUA DAILY POST

Case Number: 2988

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Politicians
Right of Reply
Unfair Coverage

Overview

On January 11, 2021 the New Zealand Herald published In-house fighting costs ratepayers thousands of dollars in investigations. The article compiled information provided to theHerald under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. The article was also published in theRotorua Daily Post. The article linked to previous Herald coverage of some of the matters included.

The lengthy article noted that almost a third of the country’s 78 councils had had to deal with code of conduct complaints since October 2019 when new councils were elected. It noted that the cost to ratepayers over the last year had been more than $180,000.

The article named all the councils that had investigated Code of Conduct Complaints in this term [24] and itemised the particular matters considered by seven councils. One of these was the expenditure by Rotorua Lakes Council (RLC) of $38,300 on a barrister to investigate five complaints against Cr Reynold Macpherson.

Reynold Macpherson complained the article uncritically repeated disinformation provided by the RLC and failed to give him a right of reply. He considered the references to him grossly unfair.

In response to the complaint the Herald noted that the article had a different focus. It assessed the legal costs of code of conduct investigations across the country. The three brief paragraphs relating to Mr Macpherson’s situation correctly reported that he was subject to an investigation, the barrister’s costs and the outcome. TheHerald saw Mr Macpherson’s complaint as an attempt to re-litigate the way the issues were handled at council level.

The Media Council recognises the particular focus of this article. All the information contained in the reference to Mr Macpherson’s case was already on the public record and the Council does not believe that Mr Macpherson should have been given a right of reply. Neither should the article have gone into his case in more detail. The article contained one link to previous coverage of the RLC matters, which in turn linked to several other articles. Any reader not already aware of the substantial previous coverage could easily have found out more.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.

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