Editorial: Council's coyness does it no credit

Last updated 05:00 04/01/2013

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OPINION: Words have a power that is famously likened to the sharpness of deadly steel.

Sometimes that power is wielded unfairly and victims are made of its clumsy use. When a recent story in this newspaper described a New Plymouth District Council sister-city trip to Japan as a jaunt, members of the council objected. And quite rightly, too. On that occasion the pen badly missed its mark, the slight made worse by repetition writ large in the headline.

But more often than not, words can make a worthy, telling blow that justifies their comparisons with weaponry.

In yesterday's paper, we used such a word to describe the council's latest and frequent attempts to thwart our own attempts to get to the truth of a number of matters deemed of interest to the public. And to the interests of democracy.

In his report on the council's most recent refusal, council reporter Matt Rilkoff wrote that the NPDC had "ducked" a number of inquiries made last year.

That could be characterised as an emotive, loaded word: it implies a very deliberate action to escape our scrutiny, and that of those people who are both readers and ratepayers. This time the word seems entirely appropriate, its impact backed up by evidence of what could be described as a campaign to keep sensitive information from coming to light.

As Gordon Brown pointed out in an earlier column, not even our elected representatives appear to be trusted enough to handle matters deemed delicate by council leaders.

Where other councils have happily responded to our requests for information, the New Plymouth District Council has dragged its feet and thrust forward cost and privacy as shields against our scrutiny. Of course, the council has been careful to operate within the law. It is doing nothing technically wrong, and we understand there are times when its officers' hands are tied.

But to us, and possibly many of our readers, it does indeed appear that it is ducking for cover. Which, of course, begs the question: Why?

When other councils are comfortable about transparency and openness, why is the NPDC not?

‚óŹ Daily News sports columnist Ian Snook likes what he sees in up-and-coming Taranaki cricket star William Young.

In yesterday's column he suggested the Central Districts batsman had a bright future at the top of the game in this country.

But in light of the Black Caps' latest humiliation, this time in South Africa (same story, different country), it's worth pondering whether that golden potential will simply be consumed by the future-eaters of this national sport? Does cricket in this country even have a future, other than as fodder for other bigger nations' global ambitions? Are the talents of Young and so many other gifted cricketers to be wasted; sacrificed to shrines of self-interest, incompetence, brutal politics and indifference?

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- Taranaki Daily News

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