Concerns raised about email interception at Horowhenua District Council

Horowhenua District Council is under fire for its email blocking processes, affecting residents and politicians.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Horowhenua District Council is under fire for its email blocking processes, affecting residents and politicians.

A council that intercepted and blocked politicians' emails engaged in "extremely high-risk" practices, a leaked report says.

The Horowhenua District Council practices were identified in a draft report by an internal auditor that has been leaked to media and members of the public. 

The report shows processes to block some emails going out and coming in, as well as a "blacklist" of external emailers. 

Emails from Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen have been blocked by his council.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Emails from Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen have been blocked by his council.

Emails from blocked addresses were intercepted to be screened by chief executive David Clapperton. He then chose to block emails, redirect them, or let them continue to their intended destinations.

Blocked email addresses include one for mayor Michael Feyen, an iwi representative, a ratepayers' association representative, a councillor, and a former councillor.

When Brendan Duffy was still mayor, he and Joann Ransom, former chief executive of the trust that runs the Te Takere library complex, were blocked from emailing each other.

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton, right, with former mayor Brendan Duffy, in 2014.
FAITH SUTHERLAND/STUFF

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton, right, with former mayor Brendan Duffy, in 2014.

An email with questions from a Fairfax reporter to Feyen was among those reproduced in the report about blocking. 

It is not known when the practices started, but the report notes they were already in use in May 2015.

Council staff and Clapperton did not answer questions about the practices, but he said it was "necessary to protect my employees so they can carry out their roles safely without undue interference, inappropriate criticism, and racist slurs".

A council communications staff member said the audit draft "was not up to standard", was not accepted by the council and would not be officially released. A review of it was being completed by KPMG, but it was not clear when this would be completed and a request for it was not answered. 

Ad Feedback

Mayor Michael Feyen said the interception was worrying and needed to be looked into thoroughly. He was also concerned the draft report was only released to him after months of "back and forth" with staff.

He did not know who leaked it, but said Clapperton had accused him of being the leak's source and demanded his resignation because of it. Clapperton did not respond to questions about this.

Feyen said he was told in his previous term that his emails to council staff would be vetted because of claims he had been disrespectful to them. He disputes any rudeness, and said he never dreamed the interception could also include emails to him, or emails to people or organisations outside the council.

Nothing happened when he reported the email system was glitchy, and in 2015 he began using a private email address for official correspondence because of "niggles" that something was not quite right. 

"I always worried about my emails, but I just thought it was a really crap [IT] system. It really upsets me that when I took time to put in hours of thought and time to send [emails, that they might not even get anywhere].

"I want a council that works transparently for the people, and in a transparent way. Why on earth would a CE and staff withhold a document like that from their mayor?"

Councillor Ross Campbell is on the blacklist, and also did not believe he had previously been disrespectful in emails. It was possible hundreds of people's emails had been intercepted, he said. 

Residents had told him they felt the interception was both a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy, and he questioned its legality. 

His wife Janette Campbell represents several community organisations in Shannon, and was furious to learn from the draft report that her emails had been blocked, he said.  

 The council claimed in a media release that when an email was blocked an automatic reply would bounce back to senders, telling them the email was redirected. However, Campbell said he and his wife had never received this. 

Finance, audit and risk sub-committee chairman Philip Jones, who is not a councillor, said the release of the draft report had the potential to expose "ratepayers of Horowhenua to additional risk, including possible legal action".  

Deputy mayor Wayne Bishop said he had not read the draft report, but planned to read the KPMG version.

"It's not right for us to comment until we read the final report."

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Ombudsman said the Chief Ombudsman planned to seek more information from  the council to determine if the issue warranted a formal investigation. 

 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Counselling for crash witnesses

The car hit five students then crashed into a fence.

"Traumatised" witness saw children, bags and paper flying as car slammed into students near bus stop.

Cyclist critical after crash

File photo: The patient was flown to Auckland City Hospital in a critical condition.

A man in his 70s was flown to hospital with life-threatening injuries after being hit by a vehicle in Northland.

Hundreds woken by mystery calls

The advice to avoid scammers is to ignore unexpected calls from unfamiliar country codes, let them go to voicemail, and ...

Hundreds of Rodney residents feared the worst when their phones went off early Tuesday morning.

Chef shutting shop to focus on family

Michael Meredith is renowned for innovation and degustation menus.

The success of Merediths came at a cost. This time, Michael Meredith will put family first.

Wellington

Eli gains loyal, helpful friend video

Six-year-old Eli Burkhalter with  his new assistance dog Taffy.

Taffy the golden labrador is a welcome companion for six-year-old Waikanae boy.

Kids sick on synthetics

Synthetic drugs, often mixed with dried leaves resembling cannabis, have claimed at least 20 lives in New Zealand this ...

Youngest was just 5 as three Porirua kids taken to hospital severely ill.

SH1 blockage cleared

NZTA advised of delays on around the Paremata roundabout and Mana on State Highway 1 after a three-car crash at Plimmerton.

Minor delays continue after a two-car crash near Plimmerton.

Capital train strike likely

Capital commuters are likely to face disruptions as rail workers prepare to strike.

Disruptions ahead for Wellington rail commuters as employment dispute boils over.

Canterbury

Car used in kidnapping found video

The vehicle that was stolen from Andrew Cameron's home near Hanmer Springs, a silver 2017 Nissan X-Trail, is loaded onto ...

A vehicle stolen after a Canterbury man was hit in the face with a pistol and kidnapped from his home has been found 120km away.

Service 'horrific' video

Michelle Bishop is upset at the service received by funeral home Poppy Funerals following the death of her daughter ...

Woman calls for funeral industry to be regulated after ongoing problems following her daughter's death.

Earthquake jolts NZ

The quake was centred 30 kilometres northeast of Seddon.

Central New Zealand has been jolted by a short and sharp earthquake.

Impatient drivers put all at risk gallery

A tale of two overtakes. The vehicle closest to camera is safe but the blue hatchback further up the road is overtaking ...

Blind faith in their luck was the only thing that saved several motorists from disaster between Twizel and Timaru at the weekend.

Waikato

Seven daring ducklings rescued 

The rescue operation saw the safe retrieval of seven ducklings from a Whitianga drain.

It took half an hour to rescue the seven ducklings from the depths of the drain.

Cocaine, cash found

The armed offenders squad helped execute a search warrant in Te Aroha.

Seven searches in Te Aroha were undertaken netting cocaine, cash and five arrests in a pre-dawn raid.

Historic pub killing set for trial

Chris Bush was shot and killed in October 1987.

Two men to stand trial next year over the murder of pub manager Chris Bush 30 years ago.

Kiwis want water levy

Farmers protested perceived attacks from politicians in Morrinsville on Monday, September 18. A new survey shows the ...

The majority of Kiwis want to see farmers pay for water use, a new survey shows.

Taranaki

Ngā Manu Kōrero begins

Dr Ruakere Hond addressed the manuhiri (visitors).

Students from 52 schools across Aotearoa have arrived in New Plymouth for a speech competition.

Principal search

Lynda Stuart, president of the NZEI, said there are ore principal vacancies than usual.

Four schools are looking for principals, and another four are looking for deputies and assistants.

Life-saver in the beauty aisle

White, centre, and another staff member from countdown visited Ian in hospital and gave a gift box to his wife Rhondda, ...

"It's overwhelming that feeling, to see this man that brought your husband back to life."

Truck rolls, spills load of urea

A truck rolled on Opunake Rd, spilling urea, and blocking the area to traffic.

Truck and trailer unit rolls and spills load.

Manawatu

The final debate video

From left, Greens candidate Thomas Nash, NZ First MP Darroch Ball, National candidate Adrienne Pearce, Money Free Party ...

Palmerston North candidates battle over mental health and Manawatū Gorge at final debate.

MP flees farmers

Labour candidate for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway left a farmer meeting about irrigation tax early.

Labour MP claims he was "physically pushed" and his van rammed.

Debate strikes useful balance

The Manawatu Standard candidates debate was broadcast live on Facebook.

OPINION: Election campaign meeting mixes information with humour and differences.

Truck fire closes highway

A truck and trailer has caught fire on Rangitikei Line, State Highway 3, in Manawatū.

A truck-and-trailer blaze has blocked Rangitīkei Line, west of Palmerston North.

Nelson

'What's a candidate?' video

Birchwood School students from left Jacob 8, Talei 9, Mia 8, talk to Stuff about their thoughts on the election and politics.

They can't legally vote until 2029, but they still have strong views on the election.

Earthquake jolts NZ

The quake was centred 30 kilometres northeast of Seddon.

Central New Zealand jolted by a short and sharp earthquake.

Power back on

A power outage on Wednesday afternoon has affected residents in Richmond, Brightwater, Wakefield and Mapua.

Power has been restored to 12,000 homes and businesses after a Transpower fault. 

Kea shooter sentenced

A man's been sentenced to 200 hours community work for killing a kea.

A man who shot at kea who were damaging his property has been sentenced to community work.

Marlborough

Dinner's in the bag

Sous chef Emily Hulburt, 5, helps out in the kitchen preparing a 'My Food Bag' recipe.

By her own admission, reporter Paula Hulburt is a whizz with a microwave. As the first delivery of My Food Bags arrive in Blenheim, she took one for a test drive.

Earthquake jolts NZ

The quake was centred 30 kilometres northeast of Seddon.

Central New Zealand jolted by a short and sharp earthquake.

Cafe confrontation

Prime Minister Bill English stopped in at BV Gourmet in Blenheim on the campaign trail on Tuesday. (File photo)

PM's coffee break gatecrashed as Labour candidate accuses National supporters of ripping down billboards.

Weather closes newly-fixed rail line

The Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch has been closed due to bad weather, just days after its post-quake ...

Just a single train managed to traverse the newly-repaired rail line from Christchurch to Picton before bad weather closed it again.

South Canterbury

Men's health focus of campaign

Jonty Penney from Timaru is participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise funds for men,s health.

Two Timaru men are taking the health message on the road.

Flow-on concerns

David Hurst, from A J Engineering in Washdyke, is concerned about the impact of the water levy.

S Canty businesses concerned about impact of Labour's water levy, spokesman says concerns unjustified.

New Mackenzie CEO

New Mackenzie council chief executive Suzette van
Aswegen.

A current staff member will take on the top job at the Mackenzie District Council.

'He's a hero,' neighbour says

The property on Wednesday afternoon.

Waipopo man who rescued wife from fire would have used 'every bit of strength'.

Otago

Search for missing man

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

More than 30 ground searchers, three search dogs and an aerial search has failed to find any further sign of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe

Serial sea lion killer at large video

A sea lion found shot on a Catlins beach in Southland in April.

A serial killer may be targeting New Zealand sea lions, with a $5000 reward on offer in exchange for the culprit.

Fired while on sick leave

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Oamaru-based P&W Painters (PWP) to compensate former employee Paul ...

Company that unfairly fired brush hand while on sick leave also had to compensate an ex-staffer who was called a "baby killer".

Kidnapping duo plead guilty

Nick Miles, 24, and Gary Michael Wilson, 46, have admitted kidnapping a man and dumping him on the outskirts of Dunedin.

Two men kidnapped and dumped another man on the outskirts on Dunedin.

Southland

Youth organisations make appeal

Sam Balloch was one of dozens of volunteers seeking signatures for a petition to keep Number 10 One Stop Shop and ...

Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop and the Invercargill Secondary Schools Network are gathering support for their petition to remain at their current location.

Pound in clear

An animal group and the Invercargill City Council are at odds about how a dog was treated.

Ministry for Primary Industries clears the Invercargill City Council over captive bolt use.

Forestry gets favour: ES

Nicol Horrell, chairman of Environment Southland.

''Forestry operators will be able to operate at lower environmental standards than other resource users in Southland."

Quake off Southland coast

A magnitude 5.8 quake struck near Southland.

A 5.8 earthquake hit off the coast of Southland - but its shaking was unnoticeable, GeoNet says.

Ad Feedback