In his latest e-newsletter, Regional Councillor Ewan McGregor bemoans what he considers to be the degrading state of political debate in Hawke’s Bay. This is a recurring theme for Councillor McGregor. I only wish he spent as much time worrying about the degrading state of the Tukituki!
Of course, the villain in McGregor’s plot is BayBuzz and yours truly, “Tom Belford, a recent American immigrant…” This reference to my dubious pedigree mirrors a comment made publicly in a Hastings Council session by Mark von Dadelszen, husband of course of Regional Councillor Eileen von Dadelszen. It seems that only multi-generation, NZ born and bred Kiwi citizens are suitable for public service in the estimation of patch-protectors like von Dadelszen and McGregor.
I hope you will help me defeat this kind of thinking by helping elect me to the Regional Council in the coming weeks. I don’t particularly care which of these two Councillors you help me defeat … either would be fine!
Here is McGregor’s BayBuzz/Belford critique, from his article, The Age of Political Innocence: RIP.
“Then there is the presence of BayBuzz. The originator and (I presume) owner is Tom Belford, a recent American immigrant from the States who has a talent for written communications, but if election meetings are anything to go by, not verbal. He is apparently well resourced, although, it seems, not well enough to run for the Regional Council without begging for donations.
But Tom is also the BayBuzz editor, and chief reporter. He, as indicated, is also a candidate. This is a massive conflict of interest and I submit completely without precedent in Hawke’s Bay’s, and quite possibly New Zealand’s political history. Tom has been a de facto campaigner for about three years, targeting selected councillors (von Dadelszen, Rose and McGregor) and anointing his pet (Remmerswaal) as being devoid of fault.
True, he has stimulated much public debate and perhaps has filled a void there, but his stock-in-trade is mockery and denigration. He is cavalier about representing his opponents correctly and when challenged simply ignores emails. (I’ve thrice asked if he will subject BayBuzz to the judgement of the NZ Press Council but have received no response. So much for his much-vaunted demand for accountability.) His blog is, I concede, a platform for public debate, but it is also a bullhorn for nastiness. I think Mr Belford has brought a tone to public discourse in Hawke’s Bay that we could well do without.”
“recent American immigrant” – I confess. Although a New Zealand citizen, I’ve only been here going on six years. By the way, is coming to Hawke’s Bay from the States worse than coming from Auckland?
“talent for written communications … not verbal.” – I hope to put my verbal skills to the test as a Regional Councillor. If informed comment and a strong voice are what voters are looking for, I can guarantee you that I’ll raise the current standard at the Council table.
“begging for donations” – I see Lawrence Yule inviting contributions on his campaign website … I thought that made it OK.
“massive conflict of interest” – are publishers barred from running for office under some obscure law I haven’t heard of? My candidacy has been fully and repeatedly disclosed in BayBuzz. With that knowledge, readers can embrace or dispute what they read as they see fit. It’s called “form your own opinion” (in election season, “democracy”), Ewan.
“mockery and denigration” – the worst thing I’ve ever said about Ewan and his fellow Regional Councillors is that they’ve been “asleep at the wheel” as Hawke’s Bay’s environment – its soil, water and air – has deteriorated during their watch. That deterioration is well-documented in the Council’s own State of Environment Report — 2005-2008, which I cite constantly to the Councillors’ apparent embarrassment.
“when challenged, simply ignores emails” – the BayBuzz website is an open book in which McGregor knows full well he can comment at any time. He could even have published his diatribe there, instead of leaving it to me. His Press Council reference runs to a question along the lines of: “If the court finds you guilty of assaulting your wife, will you accept its verdict?” Hmmm? Despite the faulty premise, in the spirit of upholding our civil society, I guess so, Ewan. Complain away … it’s your right.
“bullhorn for nastiness” – for every single Ewan McGregor who takes that view, I’ll put up 100 who consider BayBuzz a long overdue breathe of fresh air in Hawke’s Bay.
What do I want readers to take away from this exchange?
That Ewan and his fellow Regional Councillors have been “asleep at the wheel” as Hawke’s Bay’s environment – its soil, water and air – has deteriorated during their watch. McGregor, von Dadelszen and Rose have had their chance to get it right. They failed. And now they’re running scared. Hence attacks like Ewan’s.
It’s time for some new faces and fresh thinking on the Regional Council.
P.S. For more on why I’d like to be a Regional Councillor, please visit my campaign website.