Te Awamutu Community Board chair Ange Holt has undertaken to ensure any information released about a survey which invites residents to consider Te Awamutu’s future will be approved by her board.
She made the commitment after confusion over claims there would be exclusive news releases on the Who are we Te Awamutu project.
There is no budget for promoting the survey but she is hopeful it will attract media coverage.
The issue was in the news following a debate at a board meeting where it was suggested one publication would get stories first. She told the Te Awamutu News this week she had been hurt by suggestions of a “cosy” arrangement with one media company, NZME.
She had been able to preview a story which appeared in the Te Awamutu Courier announcing the arrangement and had not recognised the full implications of the use of the word “exclusive.”
Cr Susan O’Regan picked up on the issue at a board meeting last week and reminded Holt she had previously worked for NZME, which owns the Courier, and owned a website which posted its publications and suggested it looked a bit cosy.
There was no “cosy deal” between the working group promoting the survey and any media company, Holt said.
“I was not involved in the negotiation, and I wasn’t at the meeting where it happened. Te Awamutu Courier offered to provide free promotion for the “Who are we Te Awamutu” survey, that we could not otherwise afford, in return for running the story first. Any media company is free to report on the survey with our encouragement and gratitude.”
She said the website she owned with David Owen provided news and other information from a variety of sources and any individual or organisation was free to contribute.
“We do not get paid for this. We have run the website for more than 20 years at our own cost as a service to the community.”
She said her previous employment as an advertising representative, five years ago, did not seem relevant.
“Given that I have no financial or other interest in NZME, I cannot see any conflict of interest.”
The story which led to last week’s lead article in The News caught board members by surprise.
The working group does not have delegated authority to make binding decisions.
“I do acknowledge that a procedural error was made, in that not all board members had the opportunity to approve the deal before it went to print. As chairperson, I accept responsibility for this error. In future, every single decision of the working group will need to be approved at a board meeting,” Holt said.
“I am confident that those who understand the situation will see me as a sincere worker striving to further the community board’s objectives with complete transparency.”