Waipā District Council chief executive Garry Dyet says the exposure given in last week’s News to abusive on-line comments prompted an outpouring of support.
Cr Susan O’Regan prefaced a discussion on plans for Te Awamutu’s Memorial Park by reading some of the abusive and hostile messages which had been posted on social media.
Since Cr O’Regan made her comments, we have received very welcome messages from people who are horrified at what has been reported. We really appreciate those, and I’d like to thank the people for taking the time to send those in,” Mr Dyet said.
The story prompted the Te Awamutu Grapevine to review its monitoring of posts – but while all readers who contacted the News expressed negative views about the comments, some also suggested it was a consequence of frustration in dealing with the council.
Mr Dyet said he welcomed undertakings from social media page administrators adding “Waipā is much better than this.
Cr O’Regan told residents at last week’s meeting staff were leaving because of the abuse.
Mr Dyet told the News he accepted some people will not always be happy “and they have every right to share their view”.
“In fact, we bend over backwards to help people share their views… but that does not give a green light to abusing our staff or making outlandish, untrue claims.”
He said in the “old days” editors used their common sense, ensuring claims made by letter writers and others were factually correct and that even strongly expressed views were fair and courteous.
“It’s not like that anymore. The rise of social media has unleashed a level of vitriol not previously seen.
People seem to think they can say anything they like on-line, without consequences. But there are consequences.”
He said it was a shame that many staff chose not to engage in social media on council matters because they found it too destructive.
“People need to remember that Council staff are like anyone else. We live in this community, our kids go to school here, we play in the same sports teams, we’re your neighbours.