Cera staff accused of using silencing tactics

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2012

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Community advocates say Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) staff are trying to silence people who question their plans and policies.

Christchurch City councillor Glenn Livingstone is concerned Cera staff attending meetings for technical category 3 landowners are attempting to shut down difficult lines of questioning.

"If a resident starts asking too many probing questions at a meeting, they will go and sit down next to them," he said.

He had been at one meeting where a Cera staffer had reached out and put his hand on the leg of a woman, who was asking questions, in an apparent attempt to stop her.

"It's a shutting down of democracy. These are legitimate questions people are asking," Livingstone said yesterday.

The Rev Mike Coleman, of the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network, said Cera staff had stopped people from asking questions.

"There seems to have been a conscious decision to shut down questions from people who are asking the tough questions," he said.

"I think if they are genuinely trying to consult and get information out, it has to be a lot freer than it is."

A Cera spokeswoman said question time at the TC3 meetings usually ran for 90 minutes and the MCs, usually community board heads, tried to ensure that everyone was heard.

"No-one is ever prevented from having their say, although on several occasions some members of the public have self-regulated those who yell over top of other attendees or presenters by telling them to wait their turn," she said.

Attendees' contact details were taken in some cases so information could be sent out, she said.

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