Many might think the world is a harsh dog-eat-dog place where there are low expectations of democratic processes where the will of the people is subverted by the machinery of government, both national and local.
In New Zealand we like to think we are different, that we are the land of the Fair Go, where community voices are not silenced but heard with compassion and understanding.
It seems our own local government people are putting those ideals to the test, and some might say to the sword or chainsaw.
In recent times we have seen Council send a very clear message to the people of Kāpiti we are well resourced, we can fight ugly, so if you mess with us you may pay a heavy price.
Sounds menacing right. Well it is. There are plenty of instances when this has been the case often ending up in court where the Council, using huge amounts of ratepayers money, usually lose three cheers for the judiciary. We saw the case where Mr and Mrs Standen from Ōtaki, a lovely couple who trimmed trees on their own land, felt the wrath of Council. The Council decided to prosecute for all they were worth until a very sensible judge berated council and threw the case out of court.
The latest example is ‘The Hedge’ an iconic part of the Waikanae Beach semi-urban landscape which has occupied its place of honour for over 80 years.
Suddenly Council deemed it a safety hazard no evidence provided that it actually is (see photo below of two students walking past the uncut hedge with plenty of room) then started a steady stream of bullying and intimidation and finally Council’s moving in and butchering what was seen by many as a lovely attraction.
The process of what many see as full on bullying from Council has been led by the mayor who has personally abused the owners of the hedge several times and very publicly including an appalling accusation they had blackmailed council.
So where are the dissenting voices of the more reasonably minded councillors so far the silence is deafening and rumours abound that all councillors have agreed to stay silent on the issue if this is the case then that is indeed very disturbing.
The destruction of the hedge began in earnest (see photo). The strong arm of council has had its way. The message is clear you mess with us and we will crush you. Democracy in Kāpiti is not a pretty picture right now.
Another example of a council lacking empathy and compassion was when the four sole mums who were getting training at the community centre were ticketed $40 each as a parking infringement.
At the time everyone was just doing their job as they say. LVMartin made a good living out of saying it’s the putting right that counts. At the point the Council knew the circumstances of their own community members they could have been a caring, compassionate council and said this is a warning you can’t park there, please don’t do it again and waived the fines. To the mayor, on a large, ratepayer salary $40 probably doesn’t mean much so he could easily dismiss the hardship this would cause to those in difficult circumstances.
When empathy is lost the whole community suffers.