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SWDC denies blocking emails to councillors

Although a Wairarapa council denies it blocked emails from a ratepayer the man who made the allegation says his questions are going unanswered.

Greytown resident Derek Anderton claimed during last week’s South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] finance committee meeting that he was blocked from contacting councillors by email.

SWDC acting chief executive Russell O’Leary said after the meeting that Anderton is not blocked from contacting councillors by email, but intimated there are controls over his emails to staff.

“Council can confirm that emails to councillors from Mr Anderton have not been blocked,” he said.

“Although very rare, occasionally measures need to be put in place at the discretion of the chief executive [CE] to protect staff from excessive or unwarranted contact.

“In this instance, Mr Anderton is able to communicate directly with the CE and a number of general council email groups.”

Anderton said efforts to get information from the council are frustrating, and his questions about council finances and other matters are not answered.

He said he does not generally send a lot of emails, but said his enquiries tend to cluster around finance committee meetings.

“The officers use the OIA deadlines to drag out responses, then give incorrect responses. Emails to councillors go into a black hole, so I am forced to try three minutes of public participation at a meeting,” he said.

“I am not able to communicate directly with any SWDC staff – I cannot even reply to an email they send me. Replies to emails from councillors are as scarce as hen’s teeth.”

Anderton said he doesn’t send many emails in a month but tends to send them when SWDC has a finance committee meeting.

“I sent five emails to Colin Olds as chair of the finance committee for the most recent meeting – one to just confirm my public participation.

“It looks like I sent 15 emails for the last finance committee meeting – this was to show how many questions the committee should be asking, and a long agenda.”

Anderton said a councillor recently told him he had not received an email from him, which had led him to make the comment he appeared to be blocked from emailing councillors.

“I did a test email to the Greytown community board members on 26 October, and the email was blocked,” he said.

Anderton said if the SWDC chief executive is away, his emails appear to go into “a black hole” and expire.

SWDC deputy mayor Melissa Sadler-Futter said all councillors make an effort to communicate and be available.

“Elected members welcome constructive engagement with the community,” she said.

“Our contact details are readily available on the council website, we have a presence across social media, and public participation in our formal and informal meetings is encouraged.” -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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