Dispute erupts over a $20 meeting bill
It's only $20 - but it's causing a lot of acrimony.
The Nelson Residents Association has named Mike Ward as the only candidate not to pay as a requirement to speak at its election meeting at the Trafalgar Centre.
About 30 candidates standing for the Nelson City Council each spoke for an allotted time at the public meeting.
Association vice president Kerry Neal said that at the end of the meeting he found out Mr Ward had not paid, and he would not have allowed him to had he realised he had not paid.
"It's a minor amount but it's a big principle," he said.
Mr Ward said he did not pay at the last election either. "I think it's outrageous. It is not a meeting for candidates, it is a meeting for the public to hear the candidates."
Mr Neal visited Mr Ward at his studio.
"He stormed out saying something about lacking integrity and they put an email around the membership saying I was the only one who did not pay. I think it is bullying, quite frankly," said Mr Ward.
It was the other candidates' business if they chose to pay, he said. "I just don't think it's on. It's an unreasonable imposition."
Mr Neal said: "Nobody is being bullied. He did not have to attend. He was invited on the basis of paying a small amount as all the others were required to do to qualify to speak at the meeting." The association organised two meetings - a function at the Suburban Club and the Trafalgar Centre meeting.
Mr Neal said while the council waived the charge on hiring the centre, running the two meetings had cost the association more than $4000, which included advertising and a sound system. It received more than $700 from public entry donations, and after the candidates' payments, it was left with about $2000 to pay.
"We knew we were going to have to pay this difference.
"We have a basic philosophy to stimulate the election process and give newer candidates a chance for some exposure and thereby hopefully allow the public to vote in a more discerning way," said Mr Neal.
The association had sausage sizzles, raffles and subscriptions to cover its costs, he said.
Mr Ward said: "It's not about the money it's the principle. The candidates are the ones putting themselves out there and have campaigning costs."
He said it was the grubbiest election campaign he had known out of 18 campaigns. "There's so much unpleasantness.
"We are not the enemy. We may not get it right all the time; the intentions are honourable but there's constant bad mouthing."
Mr Ward said he was standing again because he had some things he wanted to achieve.
"If I do not become a councillor so be it, I will continue to be an artist and an adventurer."
He said he would look for an appropriate charity to pay $20 to.
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