Governance debate turns nasty
The ugly side of local body politics has reared its head with allegations of threats and intimidation in the debate over future governance options for Wairarapa.
Chair of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Nelson Rangi - who supports the two-tier council for the whole of the Wellington region - says he has been threatened and abused by a member of the Wairarapa Governance Review Working Party, as have some of his acquaintances.
"It appears to have escalated to a campaign of intimidation where people are loath to express a contrary opinion for fear of reprisal, subtle pressure is applied to organisations to which targeted community and business figures belong and inducements are offered in return for support of a unitary authority," Mr Rangi told Wairarapa News.
"There is no place for this sort of behaviour in this debate. It could affect outcomes and equally the credibility and work of those in the group who are not party to these tactics."
Wairarapa Governance Review Working Party chair Lyn Patterson refutes the allegations.
The Working Party strongly objects to any suggestion that its members have not followed a fair and open consultative process from June 2012, when they had no preferred position, she says.
"We respect that some other people may hold a different view to the preferred option of the three councils, but that is democracy and we have promoted open dialogue at every opportunity," Mrs Patterson says.
But Mr Rangi says while these stories are difficult to verify they nevertheless are "very real".
"I do not see myself as being brave in bringing this to the public attention. It is just that I have less to lose than others if it reaches that point. My future is limited by age, my wife is dead, my children live elsewhere. I do not have a job nor am I seeking one and do not get paid in my position as leader of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa (KKW).
"I may suffer odium or loss of confidence by some KKW members but as long as I am satisfied that I have acted honourable and with logical reason in what I believe is the best interests of the iwi, I can depart with a clear conscience," Mr Rangi says.
Mrs Patterson says it is important to understand that concerns have been raised with the Wairarapa Governance Review Working Party following the media release from Better Wairarapa. Namely, that "an autocratic approach" has been taken to decision-making and the position adopted in the release had not been subject to consultation with the members of some of the groups included. Concerns have been raised with the Working Party by members of Rangitane o Wairarapa, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and the Wairarapa Chamber of Commerce, she says.
"As a result, the Working Party is encouraging these people to address this matter inside their own organisations in order to gain clarity. Throughout this process, we have been open to all manner of views on this issue, as evidenced by our dialogue with neighbouring councils both north and south and our wide-ranging community consultation," she says.