We're holding Marlborough Council accountable.

Hypocrisy. It stinks.

A problem with the arguments of our would-be-censors is that they are often the very individuals expressing the most extreme, offensive, or provocative opinions. 

We're picking up another important fight (once more unto the breach, dear friends) - and we need you to join us.

You heard from Nadia on the weekend about the Marlborough District Council denying Let Kids Be Kids a booking for a meeting room at the local library because the organisation didn't fit with their 'inclusive' policies. This is what they said:

“Marlborough Libraries has reviewed your request to use our meeting rooms... we are not able to accommodate your request. While the purpose of your meeting is unclear, your organisation seems unlikely to meet the criteria set out in our T&Cs [to be 'inclusive']."

Yet, just last week, the same library blatantly advertised how this month they have a particular "focus on diversity, inclusion and belonging"! Huh?

Surely that means they recognise the diversity of views held by local ratepayers and are committed to providing everyone with a place to belong. Right?

This is simply another example of the word 'inclusivity' being used in the name of excluding certain voices. We're not having it!

It's time to double down, and we need your help. I'm writing to ask you to help us hold Marlborough District Libraries to account- and all local councils, actually. Let me explain.

We contacted Mark Wheeler, Chief Executive of the Marlborough District Council on Friday. We didn't hear back from him until we contacted media, and told you the story. He said: 

"I note there has already been national media involvement which is an interesting response given you’ve given me until the 12th to respond. Not a normal reaction to a Council concern." 

(Actually, we'd said we'd give him to 5pm today before we prepare legal action, not before we talk about the issue. Well, it's 5:01PM. There's been no response, so that means it's action time.)  

This is pretty telling: he was more concerned that we'd gone public and the Council might get some bad press than he was that his staff were discriminating against Marlborough ratepayers because they disagreed with them.

'Everyone is awesome...

Except for those with views we don't agree with'!

We believe the Council's hire agreement is illegal and discriminatory. But the much bigger issue is that it represents a nationwide problem we're seeing over and over. 

We've seen enough, and it's time to put pressure on local councils to uphold their legal obligations to respect the Bill of Rights.

That's why we've written to Local Government New Zealand about the pattern we've witnessed, seeking to remind councils of their duty to serve all Kiwis (though we're not holding our breath they'll be any help). 

Again and again, councils are asserting their own ideological positions, and deciding they know what's best for the ratepayers. Who gave them that authority?

Here's just some of the fights we've been up against:

Here's what I want you to remember: the Free Speech Union has been there to fight every single one of these decisions. And we keep winning... 

With your help today, we're ready to make sure Marlborough District Council doesn't get away with this nonsense.

There are several things we're doing to challenge this. All up, it's going to take about $29,000, and is worth every cent. Maybe you can contribute a few? 

  1. Preparing legal action against Marlborough District Council to hold them accountable for breaking the law;
  2. Contacting each councillor in the district, to make sure they hold the CEO (and his staff) responsible for the discriminatory actions;
  3. Lobbying LGNZ and the Minister for Local Government to issue instruction to local councils to respect the law that is well established, that prohibits them discriminating on ideological grounds;  
  4. Releasing a new professional membership, especially for public servants (including local government staff and politicians), to work from the inside to ensure these public institutions truly represent the people. 

Last week, I surveyed almost every local councillor in the country, asking them a series of questions about how free they feel to speak out in their role. On a scale of 1 to 10, councillors rated their ability to challenge other councillors as 6 out of 10.

But their ability to challenge council staff was only 4.3 out of 10. Unelected council staff are supposed to answer to our elected representatives, not the other way around!  

The argument for censorship continues to fall flat on its face. That's because it can only stand up when authoritarian personalities and bureaucrats decide their opinions are more important than others' voices. And that's not good enough.

Together, with some of the actions above, and a whole lot more we have on, we're working to ensure our voices (including our democratic voices), are protected. 

It's only with your help that we can put the power back in your hands.

The beauty of free speech is that it's consistent. Free speech doesn't mean agreeing with those whose voices you defend, but simply the right for everyone to have their say. 

I don't know how you feel about it (because the task seems mammoth), but I see more and more reason for hope. Our opponents hunt in packs, but as we band together, I'm sure we'll see them off. 

Thank you for standing with us. 


Jonathan Ayling
Chief Executive
Free Speech Union

For every $100 we raise to defend free speech, a would-be-censor somewhere in New Zealand has to hear an opinion that challenges them to think better; help us reach them all! 😛

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  • Nadia Braddon-Parsons
    published this page in Blog 2024-06-12 17:01:04 +1200

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