Masterton mayor Gary Caffell removed a post about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation on his Facebook page after members of the public made derogatory comments on it.
Caffell uses his page, Masterton Matters, to engage with the public on topical issues. On Thursday, he announced Ardern’s resignation on Facebook and the date of the October general election.
However, he decided to take down the post soon after it had gone up after negative comments were made.
In the meantime, Wairarapa local Kerry Hefferen had reported the post to Facebook after seeing what people were saying.
“It evoked some really nasty comments,” she said.
“It just brings out the crazies who think it’s okay to be critical of other users and have a field day. The page needs to be moderated and high standards upheld. I don’t think it should be a forum for political debate. It can unnecessarily polarise people.”
Caffell agreed some of the comments had got “out of hand’, but as of Friday morning, he had not heard from Facebook.
“Some of the comments were pretty derogatory, so I took it down,” he said.
He recognised the page needed to be carefully curated but said it was a valuable communication tool.
“I’m keen to keep it going because it’s a way to keep in touch with the public. Sometimes people are extreme and destructive with their comments, and I have blocked some for that reason,” he said.
Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said this was not an isolated example of people using a variety of social media to abuse public figures, and described the level of vitriol online as “appalling”.
“Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. Often fuelled by conspiracy theories and, in the case of the Prime Minister, misogyny and sexism,” he said.
“No politician is immune – be they Labour or National, in local government or in Parliament. Political debate is healthy and should be encouraged. But there is no need for hatred and abuse. These people need to realise that politicians are human. We are doing our best and working hard for our communities. Comments like that affect us. They can also escalate. There is no excuse for it.”
Ardern has been to the region a number of times during her term, including visits to Makoura College, Pukaha National Wildlife Centre at Mount Bruce, and Breadcraft Wairarapa in Masterton.