Log In

Reset Password

Put this to bed

The name of the councillor who is said to have made an offensive comment is likely to be released after a special Gisborne District Council meeting called for tomorrow.

This was the outcome of a sometimes emotional special meeting today, called to discuss comments by councillor Meredith-Akuhata Brown after the decision of a code of conduct review board was released last week but its findings and the name of the councillors concerned were kept in public-excluded.

The process was initiated after Mrs Akuhata-Brown claimed she overheard a colleague say not enough Maori were killed by members of the crew of Endeavour in 1769.

During today’s meeting, she said she stood by her comments and did not accept the apology made by the councillor.

Some councillors expressed the view the council should go ahead and release the board’s report, despite the fact that it had been threatened with a defamation action if the councillor’s name was released.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz, who chaired the review board, said she had received racial abuse after the original decision of the council to not release the report, which would name the councillor involved.

The council today decided to call an extraordinary meeting tomorrow, at which a motion to release the minutes of the previous meeting including the report of the review board will be put and is likely to be carried.

The minutes will contain the name of the councillor who Mrs Akuhata- Brown says made the comment.

Mrs Stoltz said the council had three options. One was to keep the report of the board public-excluded because of the threat of legal action against the council, the second was to decide it did not want to keep the report in public-excluded and release it to the public.

The third was for Mrs Akuhata-Brown to name the person herself.

Mrs Akuhata-Brown said she was prepared to do that if she had council support but other councillors said she should not have to take that responsibility and the decision should be made by the council.

During the meeting Bill Burdett inadvertently named the councillor involved when he asked, “are we going to hang . . . . out to dry?”

Mrs Stoltz said she would inform the councillor who was said to have made the comment, who was not present at today’s meeting, of the special meeting to be held tomorrow.

Earlier, Mrs Akuhata-Brown said she now believed she should not have accepted the apology from the councillor, which was made at a meeting between the two of them and Mrs Stoltz.

She now also realised she should have spoken up when she heard the comment made to another councillor.

‘I stand now for the future of my children’Mrs Akuhata-Brown said she stood by the comments she had made about the apology.

She had not spoken up at the previous meeting to discuss the report because she was cognisant of the process the council had gone through and felt bound by it.

She was in tears when she got to the carpark after the previous meeting.

“I am a true Kiwi. I was born in this place and I believe I am the person who should front this.”

She believed the apology was a backhanded one.

She still believed she had the right to express her views.

“I am standing by this because I am tired. I have spent five years in this institution. I love the opportunity to be part of conversation governing this region but I cannot sit there any more and allow such wrong views to go by.”

“I think it is really important that I stand now for the future of my children and their children.”

She had heard over and over comments “in this place” that were detrimental to Maori and she was not prepared to let that continue.

It was time to stand up and say racism would not be part of the council’s deliberations. In highlighting this issue she was doing her job.

A decision for today’s meeting to be an open one was made when it opened at 8.30am.

Opening the meeting, Mrs Stoltz said it had been called to get an explanation from Mrs Akuhata-Brown as to why she had made a statement after the council had agreed not to release the report.

She wanted to see where they went from here and how to move forward.

“I have said many times that I am disappointed about how this played out in the media.”

She had been the subject of unacceptable racial attacks herself, Mrs Stoltz said.

A “GDC stop protecting racism rally” organised by six local people has this morning changed its name to “Thanks to GDC for not protecting racism rally”.The protest is timed to be held at the next full council meeting on September 27.

Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown (centre) met supporters outside the council building this morning before the special meeting called to air the issue of ongoing public statements about the code of conduct review into an alleged racist comment.