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The threats keep coming

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty is weathering a marked increase in abusive and threatening messages and behaviour.

McAnulty, who is currently preoccupied with the flooding in Auckland in his role as Minister of Emergency Management, has told the Times-Age the abuse has escalated since he became a minister in June last year.

It’s got to the point where he’s had to undertake a comprehensive security evaluation and scale back some activities on the advice of security experts.

“Once I became a minister I had to increase my security,” he said.

People from across the political spectrum, in local and central government, are being targeted by this type of behaviour, he noted.

“It’s a development in New Zealand society which should be called out because it’s just not acceptable here, or anywhere.”

McAnulty became the target of a group of anti-vaccination protesters after an unpleasant encounter at Masterton showgrounds in late 2021 that was streamed online by those at the scene.

As a result of the cumulative threats, which he said were of a wide-ranging nature, the MP has had to scale back his use of a mobile office to visit parts of the far-flung Wairarapa electorate, which extends from Featherston, Cape Palliser and Ngawi in the south to towns in Central Hawke’s Bay in the north.

“I had special policies drafted so I could use a converted campervan to be visible in more remote parts of the electorate,” he said.

“I could advertise my location in advance. It was going brilliantly, but now the Parliamentary Security Service has advised I can’t do it like that.

“The problem is no one knows I’m going there now. Because of this, I feel I can’t do my job the way I want to. I’m incredibly frustrated.

“I want to do more, but I’ve been advised to be cautious.”

However, “this will not stop me turning up and doing my job,” McAnulty vowed.

“It’s frustrating but I’m not hiding away.”

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been another target of escalating online abuse, and Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell recently removed a post on his personal Facebook page about her resignation after a number of abusive comments were posted.

McAnulty became a minister outside of Cabinet in June 2022, with a focus on regional issues. In addition to being Minister of Emergency Management and Minister of Racing, he is also Associate Minister of Local Government, and Associate Minister of Transport.

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