Strong words - what could they possibly have to do with Waiheke? Well, you don’t have to look further than the island’s press. You could be forgiven for thinking, if you were to read only the Gulf News and Waiheke Marketplace, that every person on the island supports the ‘Our Waiheke’ group’s bid to de-amalgamate from Auckland Council.
Some time ago, Gulf News imposed censorship by refusing to print letters in opposition to ‘OW’. This is not the first time that readers disagreeing with the Gulf News Green left wing bias have fallen foul of the paper and been silenced. And, without doubt, it will not be the last. By ‘controlling the flow of information’, Gulf News has portrayed the Waiheke community as some sort of homogeneous beast, this time being all in favour of the OW de-amalgamation diatribe. Similarly, social media sites set up to ‘inform’ the public about ‘OW’ were quick to stop any criticism of the group by blocking dissenting voices, especially when they asked awkward questions.
In reality, 80% of affected Waiheke residents and ratepayers have NOT signed the petition in support of the ‘OW’ application to the Local Government Commission for Waiheke to become a Unitary Authority and to leave Auckland Council. This was despite a six month campaign, enthusiastically backed by both local papers, to drum up as many signatories as possible. Instead of revealing that the widely publicised 'hikoi' in support of OW attracted only twenty or so of the usual Green rent-a-mob, the papers used the usual cunning shots to suggest a cast of hundreds.
Any decent journalist, editor or newspaper owner would at least have wondered why so few people showed their faces or signed the petition and would have undertaken some investigative journalism – on the people involved, their motives and the reality of what they were asking for. Instead of taking sides and stifling debate, they should have been providing a platform for it.
If the local papers had done their homework they would first have taken a careful look at the ‘Our Waiheke’ group’s application that has been sent to the Local Government Commission. Even a cursory examination would have shown the keen observer that it is embarrassingly frivolous and amateurish. Anyone with an ounce of common-sense would tell you that the whole OW approach is qualitative rather than quantitative, which means it is long on emotion but short on evidence and fact. It is highly selective in choosing case studies from small rural councils that have little in common with the actual situation facing Waiheke. It paints a picture which just isn’t the reality and envisages a future seen through remarkably distorted, rose-tinted glasses.
Such nonsense was bound to attract opposition. This and much more have been pointed out in a comprehensive submission to the LGC in opposition to the ‘Our Waiheke’ group’s application. Concerned residents have also started a letter writing campaign to MPs and Government Ministers in support of this opposing view.
Fortunately, even the island’s totalitarian press cannot forever suppress freedom of speech.