Protest leads to dumping from group
A mask-wearing meeting crasher's stunt has triggered action by Grey Power Nelson to dump him from the group.
Nelson City councillor Ian Barker was stunned to receive a letter this week from the organisation, informing him that as a result of his recent public criticism of its handling of an election candidates' meeting, his membership had been withdrawn.
He has until 4pm tomorrow to acknowledge any intention to "address the issue" before the executive committee, or his membership will be withdrawn immediately, and his subscription paid on September 18 will be refunded.
Mr Barker, who is seeking re-election to the council, arrived at the meeting last month wearing a mask like that worn by a serial killer in the horror movie Scream, in protest at the way Grey Power staged the meeting, by selecting speakers by ballot.
There are 38 candidates standing for election to the city council, including the four mayoral candidates. Grey Power Nelson president Neville Male said at the time that 27 had indicated they wanted to be involved in the meeting but there was only time to cater for 18.
Mr Barker is a former Nelson Grey Power executive committee member, and was among those balloted out of the lineup of speakers. He described the situation as undemocratic and "absolutely disgraceful".
Others called it "upsetting" and "laughable".
Mr Barker arrived at the meeting and said that as a Grey Power member, he was entitled to attend, but removed the mask when asked to at the door.
The letter he received from the local branch of the over-50s lobby group said the committee had made a unanimous decision to withdraw his membership.
Mr Male said in the letter, on behalf of the executive committee, that the association was entitled to conduct the candidates' forum as it had done, and that as a result of Mr Barker's public criticism of the process and "subsequent masquerading attempt to disrupt proceedings on the night of the forum", a unanimous decision had been made to withdraw his membership.
It felt that according to a clause in its constitution, Mr Barker's behaviour was of a manner "sufficient to bring the association into disrepute".
The executive committee includes three city council candidates: Eric Davy, Kevin Gardener and Gaile Noonan. Mr Davy was not present at the meeting at which the decision was made. Mr Gardener and Ms Noonan did attend but declined to comment on the matter.
The letter, dated September 20, but which Mr Barker received on October 1, gave him until October 4 to announce if he wanted to appear before the executive committee.
Mr Male told the Nelson Mail, which he recently publicly criticised for its role in publicising the event at the candidates' meeting, that he had nothing further to add, except to reiterate the committee's view that Mr Barker's behaviour had brought the association into disrepute.
"We were just blown away he would do something like that. You have to wonder why he would arrive at a function wearing a mask, and why you would want to put a photo on the front page of him wearing a silly mask which was upsetting and made a mockery of the whole thing," Mr Male said.
Mr Male said Grey Power was well aware of the principles of free speech, but Mr Barker's behaviour was "grandstanding in a ridiculous manner".
"We no longer want him as a member of Grey Power, and we are entitled to do that."
Mr Barker said he did not intend meeting with the committee to talk about the matter.
He was not concerned that his membership was being withdrawn, because he was "not getting a great deal of benefit from being a member".
He said Grey Power's effectiveness in recent years had been "disappointing", but it was sad to receive a letter like he had. He felt the group should be focusing on more important issues.
Grey Power New Zealand national president Roy Reid said the move to withdraw someone's membership was unusual, but if the group was acting within the rules of its constitution, it was entitled to do so.
He declined to comment further at this stage.
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