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‘Words were twisted’

Gisborne district councillor Malcolm MacLean denies he said “not enough Maori were killed” in an overheard conversation, but fellow councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown is adamant she heard those words.

Their conflicting comments came as the council prepared today for another special extraordinary meeting, at which it will discuss releasing the minutes of the original council meeting that discussed the code of conduct review board report.

In fresh developments today, Mr MacLean said he had been subject to “vicious attacks”.

Mr MacLean, whose identity was accidentally revealed during a live-streamed extraordinary meeting yesterday, said the threats had been “vicious”.

“My wife, my animals and my wife’s business have all been threatened. It’s terrible.”

He told The Gisborne Herald this morning he was the person implicated in the code of conduct process.

But he did not say the words “not enough (Maori) were killed”.

What he said was, “lucky no more were killed with what confronted them”.

The code of conduct process was “pretty light and needed rehashing”, he said.

“I felt in the process that no one really listened to what I said.

“Some words were twisted.

“That is why I took legal advice.”

Mr MacLean says the comment was made during a lunch break in a very mumbled private conversation.

“Clearly Councillor Akuhata-Brown thinks she heard what was said. However, I know what I said.

“Why did she not say at the time that she objected to what she thought I said?

“She realised that perhaps she had done wrong with her comment in the paper in the first place (that is a breach) and was endeavouring to lessen her breach.”

Apology 'should have been the end of it'Mr MacLean said on August 9 he gave Mrs Akuhata-Brown this apology:

“If what I have said has been hurtful to you, then I sincerely apologise for that hurt”.

“She accepted that apology and thanked me for facing her — that should have been the end of it.

“However, the board found that because I offered an apology, I must have said it.

“I have also been hurt — for someone saying something that I never said.

“She made an interesting comment that she had been a councillor since 2013 and that this was the right platform to get rid of racist comments from around the council table, as this had been the case since she was elected.

“She also accused me of being racist because I had voted against a name change.

“I am in no doubt she is endeavouring to discredit me as a councillor and the work I also do in the community.”

'I am not a racist' - Councillor MacLeanMr MacLean said he would continue to serve the district to the best of his ability.

“Not everybody agrees with what everybody says. That is a fact of life.

“However, I can definitely stand here in my own mind and body and say I am not racist.

“All my life I have dealt with lots of Maori. I would not have been able to hold the positions I have held in the community if I was racist.

“I have been in business here for 35 years and have friends, former employees and family who are Maori.”

He expects repercussions from speaking to the media yesterday and this morning.

“I wasn’t going to talk to the media but I thought, ‘what is good for the goose must be good for the gander’.”

This morning Mrs Akuhata-Brown said she knew what she heard.

He made the denial at the meeting with deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz.

She questions why he apologised.

“That is why I am so disappointed in him.

“Why would I put this out in public and create a storm?

“I am not happy that he is determined to put another statement into the public domain.

“I will stand by what I heard him say, and the other councillor laughed, because that is what actually happened that day.”

The other councillor was sitting next to him and just laughed in a “flippant sense,” she said.

She was sitting next to him and another councillor heard part of the statement. He did not hear it all but heard the words “not enough.”

When she asked for an apology, he started out by stating that he was not a racist because he employed Maori and had Maori friends.

“To then state that he did not say what he said, why did he apologise?

“It does not make any sense to me.”

She told him this was an opportunity for him to front this and own it.

He could apologise to the region and start to unpack the issue.

When he made the apology, she said he was uncomfortable and she thought “oh my gosh you really are going to play this out”, Mrs Akuhata-Brown said.

The fact he had gone to media with this counter-claim, showed he had “no integrity.”

“He has made a mistake. He can own it. We all make mistakes. So why not just front-foot it?”

He needed to show leadership as part of the governance of this region.

She would not allow Mr MacLean’s statement to go out to the public unchallenged.

“What was said was an abhorrent statement and he has a chance to own it and go forward. That is wholeheartedly disappointing.”

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon, who is overseas for his daughter’s wedding, said he supported the council’s decision to be transparent.“Transparency is the best policy. The public has the right to know matters of council business.” he said.

Councillor Malcolm McLean.
Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown.