A reader writes on Auckland Council, Ecomatters and anti National profanity

A reader writes in:

I just thought I would put you in the loop re political expenditure from Auckand Council if this is of interest to you.

I raised with Auckland Council a complaint regarding  a political (anti -National party) and profane campaign of which Auckland Council were named as the client Link.   Advertisement of this project was viaTed X,  Ecomatters,  radio podcasts,  an environmental partners Newsletter, and Auckland Library  Instagram .

Auckland Council and its environmental partner Ecomatters were named on an ad agency website, as the clients , for  a  real life game campaign named ‘The Problem’, aimed at activating  youth  that contained offensive r18 and political messaging.  The ad agency  creative for ‘The Problem’, included word play posters with messages  that included  John Key is a joke, John Key is the problem, people who cut  down trees are c*nts,   consume consume consume die.   The live page has been taken down now after the complaint, but archive.org.nz shows the page and anti national party graphics as at June 28 2017 prior to the election.

Auckland Council’s explanation for the material was that Auckland Council Libraries “provided funding towards a TEDx related event 1 December 2017, which included gaming activities organised by ‘The Problem’.  The graphics and videos contained on the Facebook site for ‘The Problem’ referred to by the complainant were filmed in Auckland Library during a series of activities at this same TEDx event.”  


The other aspect of the campaign was a real life game app rated r18.   Auckland Council’s environment partner, Ecomatters   sent out an invitation for people to download their app  ‘The Problem’ and participate in real life games to win the location of a secret party for 100 people on 21 December.    To access the game you needed to enter personal details including a photo of your face and have it verified.

The campaign was supported by a series  of Instagram pages.  Problem 361 which occurs numerous times on their insta and facebook pages, is a defamatory  anti-national party video.  Instagram page  Video   which involved professional comedians and called the National party bullshit, working for rich people , defaced billboards, etc .   The Problem 361 Instagram page was followed by #AkldLibraries  and had 1398 followers.

Problem 515 is an anti colonisation page which has strong revolutionary imagery and messages that include “white rage”, “end the colonial project”, “ the problem is trust” and “colonisation”. #’ s include # neoliberalism #domination #Akd City library

And a video of the participants running through the streets of Auckland with paper bags on their heads, presumably to the secret event #CentralCityLibrary   Link

Auckland Council’s review stated  “Agent-C were sub- contracted by Ecomatters Trust who received funding directly from Auckland Council’s Environmental Services Department. This funding was used in part by Agent-C to create ‘The Problem’ organisation.”   ‘The Problem’ organisation did provide a platform for messages that were of a political and extreme nature and included the use of profane language.”

Council’s review actions included removing Auckland Council’s  name and the offensive videos from facebook and the ad agencies site and workshopping with staff about procurement.

The Problem Ltd organisation was set up in October 2017 registered to Ecomatters  address an Auckland Council leased building. Ownership of the Problem Ltd is 20% Ecomatters charity and the design agency 80%.   The Problem app rated r18 is still available for download on your app store.

Auckand Council said they were “not part of the creation or design of the Problem”. This contradicts the fact that they funded the project via their environment department, the  ad agencies statement about who their client was and the fact it was filmed on their premises and they are tagged on all the content. And it would be implausible and irresponsible for  Auckland Council to fund and  commission a campaign and have no part in its creation or design.  “Auckland Council Environmental Services discontinued their support for ‘TheProblem’ Organisation late 2017 and prior to this complaint, because it had failed to connect with the intended audience.”  . The event according to the Problems videos and radio podcasts was always intended to run from Dec 1 to Dec 21 the date of the party. So it was due to finish on Dec 21 anyways.

While I don’t have a problem with Council sometimes spending money on unique or edgy events, this spending wasn’t transparent and the propaganda aspect of it is disturbing. Asking youth to hand over private details and photos to an unknown source on an r18 app is also inappropriate.  The secret nature of the events and the content also didn’t allow political or parental oversight as to the content and activities happening on the street.

What is the Real Problem?

The real Problem, in my opinion, is covert propaganda aimed at politicising youth funded by  an increasingly arrogant local government who believes its position is not to deliver services but to push its beliefs on the public.  The Problem is that Libraries should be a place to access a wide range of information not a place of bias and propaganda. The Problem is that Auckland Council is asking households for an additional $65 per household to support the environment while misspending our environmental funding on political real life games.   The Problem is that libraries cut staff and hours because of supposed budget constraints while spending money on profane creative for Ted-x conferences..  The Problem is that there is no paper trail or transparency of this spending in the agendas or the minutes or the awarded contracts.   The Problem is that this wasn’t questioned or stopped by any elected members or by any council staff or managers.

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