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‘Unacceptable’ abuse of council staff on the rise

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell has called out what he characterises as “increasingly aggressive and threatening behaviour being directed at council staff”.

While he acknowledges that “being elected to council comes with a certain level of criticism, and we should rightly be held to account for the decisions we make on behalf of ratepayers and the broader community”, Caffell draws the line at council staff being “targeted personally based on these decisions”.

Masterton District Council [MDC] staff have been subject to combative and aggressive in-person behaviour in places such as the Masterton District Library and customer services offices, Caffell said.

“Some staff members are being directly approached and verbally or physically assaulted when out in public. This is completely unacceptable.”

An MDC spokesperson told the Times-Age that police are “regularly involved in response to incidents, including those involving the trespass of individuals”.

While incidents of physical assault are “rare”, there have also been episodes involving “fighting between members of the public in council spaces, which has made staff feel at risk”.

The number of incidents reported by staff – which have ranged from abusive behaviour to feeling at risk of assault through to actual assault – has risen significantly in recent years, the spokesperson said, with 55 to date this year, compared to 31 over the whole of 2020.

Caffell has urged members of Masterton’s community to treat others – including council staff members – as they would like to be treated themselves.

“All staff here at MDC are members of our Wairarapa community,” he said.

“They are all real people, with real lives outside of work. They pay rates. They want what the rest of the community wants. But mostly, particularly for those staff who regularly deal with the public, they want to be able to work without the threat of aggressive, abusive, or violent behaviour.”

Caffell’s call follows several similar statements from South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] regarding harassment of its staff and councillors via social media, phone, and email – most recently earlier this month.

“Increasing numbers have taken on a tone that is often directed at council staff and can be threatening in nature. Clearly, this is not acceptable and isn’t tolerated,” SWDC interim chief executive Paul Gardner said at the time.

1 COMMENT

  1. People will be loke that out of pure frustration. Gary is a classic example of a councillor that can only hear what he’wants to hear. And when you challenge him your deemed as abusive. He expect you to agree with his know idealisms and only cater for people of his own ethnicity. He doesn’t like being challenge at all to the point where he will ban you from his FB Group Masterton Matters. What matters is only what Gary thinks is important. Don’t like the man at all.

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