WAITAKERE CITY COUNCIL AGAINST THE WESTERN LEADERA complaint by the Waitakere City Council against the Western Leader, published at Henderson, has not been upheld by the New Zealand Press Council.
The community newspaper published two articles about waste paper collection in the area. The first article on 15 July was headed "Contract Loss Costs Kids." The story claimed that the Children's Home United Council would lose "$20,000 of income because a waste paper collection had not been renewed. A spokesman was quoted as saying he did not think the Waitakere City Council had given any consideration to children's welfare in the situation. A Council spokesman was quoted saying "Paperchase did not bid for the contract."
The manager of the Council's solid waste business unit was quoted: "Paperchase was owned by Carter Holt Harvey and CHH had negotiated the paper collection contract with Wastecare." He went on to say that CCH had indicated in March that it would not bid for the contract because of a misunderstanding relating to what the contract would have covered,
Waitakere City Council then complained that the comments and the tone of the article implied that somehow the Council was responsible for the loss of the collection contract.
A followup story published by the Western Leader on 30 July repeated that Paperchase owners, Carter Holt Harvey, had not tendered because they thought that they were unable to bid just for the paper contract. The article suggested that Paperchase trucks would be collecting paper for recycling from private property and not the kerbside, as the new contract winner now covered kerbside collections.
The City Council complained the second article further compounded the issue and that an inference could be drawn that Paperchase had a contract with Waitakere City when in fact the contract was with Wastecare. The article also repeated the claim that the contract had been in place for 40 years which was another basic factual error, because Paperchase's contract with Wastecare had been in place for only five years.
In its complaint to the Press Council Waitakere City Council maintained that the newspaper's reporter was told both orally and in writing that Carter Holt Harvey and the charity had misunderstood the tender requirements and had made its decision not to bid for the contract. The City Council said the newspaper ignored those basic facts.
In its response the Western Leader maintained neither article said that Paperchase had a contract with the City Council.
The Press Council found the first article to be complicated and a little confusing. However the article acknowledged that the charity's contract with Wastecare was "arms-length." It also said the paper collection contract with Wastecare was negotiated by Paperchase's owners Carter Holt Harvey - not Children's Homes United Council.
It is unfortunate if the Waitakere City Council's reputation and credibility was damaged by the articles and perhaps the Western Leader could have more promptly published a clarification. However the paper did not appear to deliberately mislead the public and the Waitakere City Council, known to be a robust organisation, should be able to withstand these sorts of misunderstandings.
The complaint is not upheld.