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Fear need not rule

 |  John Veysey  | 
In 2012 Brigitte Meier took charge of Department of Conservation (DOC) activities on the Coromandel.

Her department’s staff had caused offence not only by uncontrolled poisoning but by its failure to seek landowner consent before trespassing on their private properties. This trespassing was legal they said. Its legitimacy did not reduce the level of offence taken.

DOC staff knew they faced a growing wave of opposition every time they left the office. Brigitte felt it strongly. The Thames office became fortified against intrusion. Visitors were treated as potential attackers. For her public appearances Brigitte was accompanied by two strapping body-guards. Large teams of security guards were employed to safeguard DOC’s obviously offensive operations.

By this time communication between DOC and landowners had ceased altogether. They tell but do not listen. This creates an impenetrable barrier between government and its people.

Myriad concerns brought people together on parliament steps. They just wanted to be heard. Not a single member of our elected parliament emerged from the beehive to listen to them. Instead the protesters received abuse, both physical and verbal.

In the matter of Maori wards not a single councillor stood up and suggested there should be public discussion before making their decision. What were they afraid of?

This fear of the public by government employees has infected all government departments and is escalating out of control.

In the understanding of some, Prime Minister Adern spread fear through the country, a fear re-enforced with daily TV appearances. She barricaded herself into her Wadestown home. She used the presence of police rather than lending an ear.

Now Mayor Salt finds himself in the same position as Brigitte all those years ago – in charge of a department forming policies and doing work at odds with the rate-payers who elected him.

Neither he nor council staff will look at the offensiveness of their actions, instead they  fence themselves in, not engaging in discussion.

The constituent’s concern goes unattended. The over-riding concern is councils’ lack of rate-payer consent to so many council actions.A significant part of council’s long term plan is the lengthening list of council activities which do not require public consent, a list made without public consultation.

Flemming H Rasmussen (6 Feb) gives a comprehensive account of how a government department can be open with the public before they adopt a plan.

This kind of open approach (have a referendum) has been taken on by councils with sufficient ‘integrity’ to put their rate-payers first. The Thames/Coromandel council at this time, is not one of these. Three could be.

Government employees seem to work on the premise that what they are doing is in the best interests of the people and the environment and that those who complain, “just don’t get it”:

The kindest public servants believe, ‘These complainers are good people but they must eventually realise that, “we know best”.’

As the gap between government and the people widens, the government gets more fearful and their need for self-protection grows more urgent. Do we want fear to rule our lives?

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