District council reacts to Facebook rumours

Southland Mayor Gary Tong is outspoken about protecting journalism.
Southland Mayor Gary Tong.
The Southland District Council has hit back at falsehoods swirling around social media by using the very same forum to set the record straight.

Mayor Gary Tong said information on social media posts, including the Facebook page of Southern councils Watch Dog, had triggered several calls to council and councillors.

"It’s very frustrating. It’s time-wasting. It causes angst not only within council but in the community."

He had received calls from the community, councillors and some of council’s partners who were quite concerned and ready to support council because they couldn’t understand why commissioners were coming in to the council, he said.

On a post to Facebook on Wednesday, council said it was prepared to receive fair criticism.

"However, blatant untruths are currently being widely circulated on social media and, as a result, elected members are receiving calls from residents and ratepayers questioning their status and the status of council itself."

In an 11-bulleted post, it was confirmed councillors were not meeting in-house nor were they trying to sort out any mess.

"‘The minister’ and the auditor are not trying to get rid of our council’."

Allegations the council was to be removed next month was "demonstrably untrue", the post said.

The post also clarified Finance and Assurance committee chairman Bruce Robertson was not operating in any capacity for Audit NZ, councillors did not receive a $120 a day tax-free allowance. It also clarified roading funding matters and the impact they might have had on the long-term plan, plus explained the $25million in debentures frequently being referred to, which was debt security stock that was provided as security for the borrowings that council took out from Westpac bank. "It is similar to providing your house as security for a mortgage."

Clarification was also given about holding off on work to identify Significant Natural Areas until a National Policy Statement was finalised.

Mr Tong yesterday said he had now visited a representative from Southern councils Watch Dog.

"I now believe we’re on the same page and I look forward to a comfortable working relationship going forward."

Mr Tong said council was not trying to stop people from making comments but believed those comments should be based on facts.

If anyone wanted facts checked, he himself or chief executive Cameron McIntosh were available to answer them, he said.

A Southern councils Watch Dog representative could not be contacted last night.



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