A newsletter in Sanson, which pronounces the movements of the "village gay" and a peeping tom and provides an alternative commentary on community committee meetings, is causing controversy in the town.
The Occasional Newsletter, which is published as its title suggests, gives a summary of the Manawatu town's most recent happenings according to its author Ann Fullerton.
Mrs Fullerton said it was her civic duty to publish the town's news, because the Sanson community committee failed to do so.
"We live in a democracy, and people should know what's going on."
She started the newsletter years ago as an opportunity to express her opinions on rates hikes, but it quickly expanded to more general news items.
The Manawatu Standard has seen copies of the last four Occasional Newsletters and they all mention the "village gay", Sanson's crimes - including one instance of the suspected peeping tom - and general news such as planter boxes, recycling and a new defibrillator at the town's petrol station.
Mrs Fullerton also publishes her own account of the Sanson community committee meeting minutes, because the official versions are "abbreviated" and "inaccurate".
She seeks legal advice for her wordsmithing and stands by her statements as fair, balanced and correct. "I stick to the truth and no one has ever proved me wrong. I believe in the freedom of the press."
Mrs Fullerton's newsletter has been a hot topic in the Manawatu District Council chambers recently, with councillor Barbara Cameron saying at last month's meeting that it was being monitored. Afterwards Cr Cameron told the Standard the newsletter was dividing the town.
"We talk about community cohesion but the newsletter's certainly split Sanson at the moment - people are quite upset with the content and the style of writing," she said.
Cr Wayne Ellery, who has attended some of Sanson's community committee meetings this year, said he could understand why people were up in arms.
"Generally the newsletter is full of negative content and it's not doing the community any favours and I think they've just had enough," he said.
Mrs Fullerton said: "The ‘village gay' is a bit of a hard case. He enjoys the Occasional Newsletter and he's a friend of mine.
"I'm not poking fun at him so much, it's just a bit of light relief. But don't worry, I don't take myself very seriously either. I refer to myself as an old cat and a grey head."
The Manawatu Standard contacted members of the community committee including chairwoman Donny Wilson and secretary Del Parker, but neither wished to comment.
Community committee member Kristi Whittaker, who helps Mrs Fullerton deliver her newsletters, said her fellow committee members' failure to comment was "cowardice".
"If you want to see democracy at its worst, come to a Sanson community meeting.
"I personally believe that the Occasional Newsletter does nothing except make you stop and think about public issues, and that's a good thing."
Sanson's next community committee meeting is tomorrow.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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