WCC’s angry communications

Now that we have a new, inclusive and some say “cuddly” Mayor, can we expect to get more friendly and inclusive communications from the Wellington City Council itself.

I have been following the election closely for the last couple of months and was surprised at what I saw when I looked at the council’s communications responses to ordinary citizens and ratepayers in recent times and over the last few years. For example:

 WCC Comms response to member of the public commenting on this blog, 12 October 2010:

“Thanks again for your lectures on how Council staff should behave but, as I told you last week, I think we’ll take a rain-check on the advice since you clearly don’t understand how the Council or the media works.”

(And they wonder why 60% of people don’t vote)

WCC Comms response to a member of the public commenting on this blog, 12 October 2010:

“Notwithstanding the discussion about iPods and holidays and my alleged attempt to have a go at an individual candidate, I think your complaint that the Council’s communications people take a provocative and confrontational stance is quite hilarious. Let’s be clear here – and correct me if I’ve got this really, really wrong – but this is a blogsite apparently expressly dedicated to scrutinising, unpicking and criticising the Council – we have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever and in fact welcome the attention. … If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the forum.”

(Bring on the heat)

 WCC Comms response to Lindsay Shelton of Scoop, 17 August 2010:

“Unfortunately for you the Council is not obliged to leap to attention and into action every time you publish a piece. Sometimes we are interested, sometimes we are not. In this case I’ve told you several times that our planners may get around to responding to your piece about the Wharewaka. Unfortunately for you they have clearly decided that there are more important and urgent tasks to be dealt with.”

(I thought that under the LGOIM Act, councils had 20 working days to respond to requests for information. But this comment explains a lot)

WCC Comms response to members of the public commenting on Scoop, 10 February 2010:

“Regarding the various insinuations by Mr Shrapnell and others that there’s a whiff of Nazi Germany about the Council and, in particular, the Communications office, we could get highly offended but we’ve had a chat round the office and come to the conclusion that we should brush off the comments on the basis that they’re just pathetic and lame.”

(Might be better to de-escalate rather than use the ‘N’ word)

WCC Comms response to Scoop, 11 March 2010:

“In regards to the Council’s staff turnover if you had picked up yesterday’s Capital Times you would see a letter from me that explains the real situation at the Council. Last year our turnover was 23%, currently it sits at 16%. … The story in Capital Times should best be described as a shameless beat-up.”

(I think they spoke too soon, turnover was a lot more than 16% for 2009/10)

WCC Comms response to The Standard, 28 November 2008:

“The people opposing the proposed flyover are employing the classic old ruse of working up drawing to make the proposal look as terrifying and gigantic as possible. The artist who knocked out the image you’re running has clearly decided the flyover is going to be designed by Mattel – ie that it’ll be a giant Hot Wheels track that’ll cross over the fence into the Basin Reserve itself. This, of course, is all rubbish designed specifically to mislead the public and scare the horses.”

(What’s a flyover supposed to look like? It’s a shame WCC didn’t put more effort into getting some drawings into the public domain itself)

I could go on.

Most of the comments above have been from a council spokesman of longstanding (since 1995) apart from very brief periods with NZ Post and Ministry of Civil Defence – roughly the same timeframe as the Blumsky/Prendergast administrations).  The more recent communications and marketing manager is also an author and poet (Fisherman’ Town, pg eight) of some renown. Perhaps we can expect to see releases and comments rhyming or in iambic pendameter.  But whatever they are, let’s hope they are a little bit more respectful of the people they serve.


42 responses to “WCC’s angry communications

  1. Very interesting contrast between the Comms Dept’s approach and that of the office of the mayor the other day correcting the Dompost’s councillor profiles. The Mayor’s office seems to much better at engaging with the punters.

  2. More blah blah blah from Johhny the Anonymous.

    Frankly I understand Richard MacLean’s frustration at having to deal with Anonymous Champions of Democracy – an oxymoron if ever there was one.

    Here’s an idea. Let us know who is behind this website so your motives can be scrutinised. Anything less and you have no credibility.

  3. Not angry Johnny, just disappointed (now I sound like your Mum). How about addressing the point instead of ascribing emotions to me that just aren’t there.

    • Rex: perhaps telling people they’ve no credibility and making demands isn’t really going to encourage Johnny & WCCwatch to do things differently. It’s only a blog anyway and I don’t see anything in the post that’s factually incorrect.

      • Richard, I am simply stating my opinion. To me, anonymous bloggers have no credibility. I make no demands. WCC Watch is entitled not to give a damn what I think and is obviously under no obligation to drop their anonymity. Personally I would hate to have less credibility than Cameron Slater.

        I have not said anywhere that there is something factually incorrect so I don’t understand what point you are trying to make. I will, however, say that it is dishonest not to give any context to the quotes.

  4. Rex you’re way off track on this. Johnny has just reported the facts. And is it any wonder that people blog anonymously when WCC Comms use the language they’ve been using against people whether they’re anonymous or not — there is no excuse for the tone taken by WCC Comms in any of these communications.

    • Pardon me Thomas but how am I the one who is way off track? You are the one rebutting a point I have not made. Allow me to spell it out… my point is that there is no such thing as an Anonymous Champion of Democracy. Someone here stated that they were using the internet to its fullest (or words to that effect) but to me they are simply hiding behind a keyboard.

      As for the language from WCC Comms… diddums. One of the points that WCC Comms was responding to was the regurgatation of claims that parking wardens have quotas and get prizes for exceeding them. This was based on the “facts” that there was an anonymous whistle-blower and it had been reported in the DomPost. That sort of lie deserves whatever language it gets.

      So, anyone care to debate the point I am making or are you more comfortable calling me “angry” or rebutting points I haven’t made?

      • okay. you are starting to sound hysterical, but i will spell out my points for you:
        1. some of WCC’s comments were not in response to anonymous bloggers.
        2. even if they were, there is no excuse for public officials using they tone they have.
        3. their approach tends to encourage people to use anonymity.

        I don’t think this comments list should be confined to responding to the points you have made, Rex. And i don’t think you have accurately represented the point you made above. Chill out.

    • Gotta say I agree with Rex. Considering the crappy tone of some things said about WCC comms staff, their responses seem remarkably mild to me. I don’t know why anyone would be scared into anonymity by them. There does seem to be a broad correlation between anonymity and, er, fruitier accusations.

  5. Rex, I liked the Stig better when he was anonymous. I know some people would like to know who I am so they can attack my motives etc etc. I see you are already calling me lower than Cameron Slater. I would really want to expose my family to that sort of bile. The truth though would be dissapointing to you. I am an ordinary guy, with no political memberships or hidden agendas hiding up my sleeve. Variety makes the spice of life. Some blogs are anonymous and some are not. There are no rules. We are free to do what we want. You are free to read or not.

    • So you compare a TV programme about cars to a blog on the WCC. Sorry johnny, that’s just whack.

      “I see you are already calling me lower than Cameron Slater. I would really want to expose my family to that sort of bile.” Are you sure you’re not also posting under the name Thomas Eckley because that’s a circular argument in the extreme. I rate your credibility lower than Slater’s because of your anonymity.

      It is interesting that your comment to one of your quotes above is “(Bring on the heat)”. Sounds like bravado but then you’re hiding behind a keyboard saying, “I’m not coming out if you’re going to be mean to me” so I guess bravado is easy in those circumstances.

      Like you I am “ordinary guy, with no political memberships or hidden agendas hiding up my sleeve”. Unlike you, when I say that it can be verified so pardon me if I don’t just take your word for it.

      You are indeed free to do what you want but I am equally free to express my opinion. Sadly the responses here are to call me angry and hysterical and to rebut points I haven’t made. You are failing miserably to convive me that there can be such a thing as an Anonymous Champion of Democracy but then I’m not really sure you’re trying.

      • I read your first comment as angryish. If it was not, I apologise. I have never claimed to be a champion of democracy. Actually, this is not my blog and someone asked me to write for it. I just write about what interests me. I have no idea who they are, even if they are male or female. Call it a 21st century relationship.

  6. Hysterical, no. Frustrated, yes.

    1. And some were.

    2. Your opinion. I don’t happen to share it.

    3. Circular argument. The anonymity was in place first and is the leading cause of the frustration.

    “I don’t think this comments list should be confined to responding to the points you have made, Rex.” Thomas, you responded to my post with an irrelevant comment about the blog’s accuracy and ignored the entire point of my post. I reserve the right to refer you back to the point I was making.

    “And i don’t think you have accurately represented the point you made above.” Comprehension. It’s a wonderful thing Thomas. You need a refesher course if you really think that.

    • 2. if you were rational, you’d be interested in which of the opinions was more strongly based in evidence and logic rather than just dismissing them as different opinions.

      3. actually, not a circular argument at all. there are some important issues here about the role of public officials in supporting political agendas and stifling public debate. and actually, the rest of the world doesn’t care too much about your frustrations. perhaps you should take a shower.

      “you responded to my post with an irrelevant comment about the blog’s accuracy and ignored the entire point of my post. I reserve the right to refer you back to the point I was making.” actually, i was responding to the discussion, including Richard’s response to your comment. please read all of the postings. again, this blog isn’t all about your views, Rex.

      enough said — i’ve no interest in wasting any more bandwidth on this.

      • 2. Thomas, I really don’t think you are in any position to determine who is rational.

        3. I suspect you don’t know what a circular argument is. And I am well aware of the unimportance of my frustration to the rest of the world. I wasn’t speaking to them. I was speaking to you as you had incorrectly told me I was hysterical.

        If you were responding to the discussion in general why did you start the post with my name? Sorry if I took that as a response to me but golly, easy mistake to make surely?

        And I agree with you that pretty much everything you write here is a waste of bandwidth but look on the bright side… if we were talking face to face you would be wasting oxygen and that is much more precious.

  7. Rex Nairn :
    I will, however, say that it is dishonest not to give any context to the quotes.

    The full context for the quotes is there in the links. Out of interest Rex, had you been elected would have been comfortable with the WCC response to that Scoop article?

    • Sure, if you have time to read through them all which I suspect most don’t.

      And I am pretty comfortable with WCC Coms regardless of whether I had been elected or not but it is pretty hard to answer such a vague question.

  8. [comment moderated]

    I thought this was wcc watch!

    What happened to free speech?

    Perhaps I am on the wrong blog or do you have more info on this matter than we do?

    • V, This is not the place for serious allegations of that nature to be aired. Free speech has its limitations. If Ms Olsen feels strongly she should make a complaint to the appropriate authorities.

  9. Thomas Eckley :
    i’ve got to admire you for being the wildest hypocrite on the internet, v.

    Whats is your problem Thomas Eckley?

    Lots of people on here have challenged those behind this blog to identify themselves.

    Do you sit behind the desk next to Johnny?

    • you think someone who hides behind a nom-de-plume has any credibility when they criticise others for remaining anonymous?

      personally, i don’t see anything wrong with anonymity — i’m more interested in the content of people’s arguments than worrying about who is making the arguments. do you change your view about people’s arguments depending on their skin colour, street address, clothing, etc? i expect not (i hope not). so why would you change your view about their arguments based on what their name is?

  10. The easiest way to sort out the Olsen matter is to invite her to come back on the and answer the questions raised or provide the evidence requested.

    Failing that the matter may have to be taken up with with WCC directly.

  11. Personally, I like it when PR people are allowed to show a little personality. I think Richard does a really great job of responding to people’s questions and keeping people informed about what the council is up to.

  12. WCC Comms do a good job. The criticism is that some of the flippant or pointed replies may alienate some people, especially people with little access to good information. We are not calling for changes in staff, just an inclusive attitude. I like funny replies, but not sarcasm or condescension.

  13. So by your standard any blog post or news article that doesn’t provide a full copy of the source material is “dishonest”. That’s laughable.

    Also as you seem to be fine with council officers being sneering and condescending toward local media I know know who not to vote for next time round.

    • Not full copy Richard. A simple “in response to…” would have been sufficient.

      A. I doubt you voted for me this time around. Pretty sure I’m on a first name basis with everyone who did!

      B. Unlikely to be a next time. This year’s result was humiliating enough.

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