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Monday
Jan172011

Freedom of Information

It has come to my attention that the powers that be at TCDC, with whom I have always in the past had an excellent relationship, have taken steps to block my website through their IT system.

One can only wonder what it is that has upset them to this degree. Certainly none of the senior management group are "subscribers", but a considerable number of others at the next and lower levels are, and quite able to access the blog without going through the website, so from that point of view, it does not particularly concern me.

What does concern is that senior staff, or perhaps the Mayor himself may regard what I publish as damaging, or so embarrassing that "see no evil, hear no evil......" is the way to deal with it. On the other hand, one senior staff member complained that one blog had a factual error, and "blocked" her computer as a result. The error was corrected in an addendum within 12 hours, so I cannot imagine that her action was a rational response in that she would have been unable to read it.

It is a small town, and I have no doubt that some of my material has upset a few vested interests. But stuff has gone on in this same town, and the Peninsula under the radar for far too long - neither the established radio, or newspaper have been prepared to undertake any form of investigative journalism, and the status quo has clearly been regarded as sacrosanct, probably with an eye to advertising revenue if the truth is known. It was certainly clear to me while a member of Council that it was almost impossible to get things out into the open that were likely to upset that cosy situation. Confidentiality was often used to stop "stuff", and the inability of journalists to analyse complicated council papers often led to concentration on the trivial.

I don't claim for one moment to be an investigative journalist, or even a journalist. I believe that my experience has given me the ability to analyse, and write coherently. I have allowed every opportunity in my blog for corrections and/or comments opposing my point of view. I have not removed a single comment, and I am still waiting for any one of over 500 regular readers to bring any major concern to my attention.

I am sorry if senior TCDC staff (and perhaps elected members) find it hard to deal with criticism. I have attempted to provide balance, and will continue to do so, but when Council does something that I consider stupid, irrational or likely to impact on a group or groups of ratepayers, I will bring it to the attention of readers of this blog. Of that you can be sure, regardless of approval ratings within the Council building. You are, I am sure quite capable of making up your own mind.

All over the World, the establishment, and even other media, are having trouble coping with blogs. They  may often constitute rubbish, but they stand or fall on their own merits, and if readers give them the thumbs down, they will disappear - it is as simple at that. I intend to stay around for as long as I feel  able to make a contribution to open government and transparency on the Peninsula.

I am not beholden to advertisers - well not at this stage, and even if I was, I give my solemn undertaking to not allow any such commitment to influence content.

I would like to particularly thank those who have taken the trouble to compliment my efforts - often, you post stuff out there to a deathly silence and have no idea how it has been received.

 Addendum - please see comments for follow-up on this story - BB

 

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Reader Comments (6)

Hi Bill
I can assure you there is no "blocking" of your blog or your email as such, but occasionally our Web Marshal program does do some strange things. It has happened to me once or twice but when I have refreshed the link it has opened both your website and your blog. We respect your right to your own opinions.

Thank you for that Mark, and apologies - I should have gone to you for confirmation, but two reports led me to believe the website - not the blogsite had been blocked.

January 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Bill..

regarding your observation "neither the established radio, or newspaper have been prepared to undertake any form of investigative journalism, and the status quo has clearly been regarded as sacrosanct,"

I have a classic.... each week we see several reports in the HH on nation-wide trends in the property market, but nothing about local prices and trends. I imagined this local information was not available but it turns out it is. So, I wrote a letter to the HH in mid December providing some of this info, but it has not been published. I have submitted a revised version again today ... as below..

"There are plenty of articles published each week showing New Zealand-wide sales volumes, prices and trends sourced from Real Estate Institute reports. But I would like to read about what's going on locally.

It turns out that the Real Estate Institute reports do provide property statistics specific to the Thames-Coromandel -- and they reveal a very different local property market compared to New Zealand as a whole.

The REINZ report for December 2010 records that in November 2007 the median price in the Thames-Coromandel was $415,000 with 69 sales. In November 2010 the TCDC median price was $325,000 (a decrease of approximately 21% in three years) with 46 sales, and down from $370,000 in October 2010. Nation-wide, the median price has fallen 4.7 % from late 2007.

In November 2010 the Coromandel region recorded a fall of - 8.6% in asking price expectation compared to 3 months earlier, while the New Zealand-wide figure rose +1.4%.

Thames-Coromandel has an inventory of 262 weeks of equivalent sales compared to the NZ average of 53 weeks. This means Thames-Coromandel has property inventory equivalent to 5 years of sales.
350 new TCDC listings were made last month, up 35% from last November - compared to a decrease of listings of 7% countrywide for the same period."

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Thank you Denis - I have suspected for a long time that the HH deliberately published only "good" news about the real estate market - always upbeat. I am sure that the local real estate industry has had more than a little influence in this. But I don't believe that this peculiar to this town - I think you will find that it is common to all small towns in New Zealand where provincial newspapers are dependent on the real estate business to survive. You will probably find that the newspaper groups - in our case, Fairfax, are quite deliberate in setting down the ground rules for editors to follow - centralizing of the sub-editing function has more than an economic motive I suspect.
Will watch with great interest to see if your latest missive gets up on Friday, but I would not hold my breath.

January 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

During the last election campaign, the man who is now our Mayor claimed that he had 'business acumen', that in his opinion the TCDC had "systematically overspent its budgets" and that he would "significantly reduce overheads" to address the problem.

However, there was never any evidence offered by him to say what budgets were overspent or what overheads he was going to cut. That was because he identified a phantom problem.

The TCDC was being run efficiently and had received clear audits on all recent annual budgeting. Anyone with true business acumen who had bothered to read the Councils accounts would have known that.

So where were the local news media in analysing this Mayoral cods-wallop?

The absence of professional journalism in our local media tends to sideline what counts, moving political success to "who has the biggest gang" most able to make convenience the truth.

Good luck with your blog Bill. I sincerely hope the local media up their performance as a result of it. However, I doubt there will be many people are holding their breath!

Dal.

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDal Minogue

Thanks Dal - you make valid points, but that is the reality, and we all have to live with it. The consequences may take a little time to emerge. The media will not change, of that I am sure, but I intend to continue injecting spice, and maybe a little sugar occasionally. It is all good fun!

January 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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