Gagging Councillors

Stuff reports:

Changes to Nelson City Council’s Code of Conduct has the potential to gag councillors and turn them into spin doctors for the council, according to a researcher.

Massey University researcher Catherine Strong says a paper she published in 2014 found 10 councils from around the country had inserted phrases to state elected members could not criticise council, its policy, or actions.

Strong says Nelson has also re-worded its code in November, 2014.

The changes were similar to those made by councils she had studied for her paper, which she found had the potential to “fetter” free speech. 

Nelson City Council’s reworded code 5.10 currently states: “Elected members public statements expressing their opinion on matters before the Council shall not criticise the conduct of the Council, other elected members or officers of the Council.”

What nonsense. They’re trying to say a Councillor can’t criticise the Mayor. This would be like Parliament having a Standing Order saying MPs can’t criticise the Prime Minister. Any Council with such a provision in its code should scrap it.

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