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Councillors left angry

Future discussions on race need to be held in a respectful way, several district councillors said yesterday.

Angry and disappointed councillors were speaking their mind at yesterday’s meeting, at which it was decided to release part of the minutes of a public-excluded meeting that discussed breaches of the council’s code of conduct by councillors Malcolm MacLean and Meredith Akuhata-Brown.

Brian Wilson said it was “incredible that the situation had got to this stage”.

He found it really irritating. This matter should have been dealt with internally.

“I know we have to take notice of what the public wants but, as always, in cases of racism we can’t have a conversation in this town or country without the process being hijacked by radical people from either side of the spectrum.

“I think it is time that people in our community grew up and let us have a decent conversation, respecting each other, instead of what has gone on.”

People in the council organisation had found this very stressful, particularly the deputy mayor who had been attacked personally with racist comments, and the council staff, Mr Wilson said.

“We should have had a respectful conversation.

“We will never move on from these things unless we respect each other.”

Acting mayor Rehette Stoltz said racial issues needed to be dealt with in a respectful way.

The council had learned from this process and, going forward, they would tackle the issues that came their way.

“I want to assure the community that we will work hard to restore the public trust in Gisborne District Council,” she said.

Josh Wharehinga said the council had not followed due process and had not been accountable. That was how it had got into this mess. The responsibility for that lay at this table.

He, too, had been called a racist and a traitor.

Mrs Stoltz disagreed. The council did follow due process. The minutes were not released because of the threat of legal action.

From now on, if she was dealing with a breach, there would be a report to the council so the public could see what was going on.

Karen Fenn asked the public to refrain from making negative comments on social media.

Andy Cranston said he was sad at the way this had been handled by the media.

When he arrived at the meeting, he saw media (Maori TV) interviewing Councillor Akuhata-Brown. It would have been better if they had come into the chamber and heard both sides.

Bill Burdett said he concurred with Councillor Wilson.

Larry Foster said it was disheartening to come back from overseas to see what had happened. The integrity of the council had been damaged.

The issue had caused social media to go berserk — this was a sad situation.

Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown.
Councillor Malcolm McLean.