Phonemast and the Media

Part 4 of Stephanie’s summary of the phone mast issue.


(A) National Media

It has to be said that the national media appear to have entered into a conspiracy of silence on this issue.  When the NES was pushed through Parliament under urgency (in the last days of the Labour Government) neither the usually vociferous opposition nor the media had anything to say about it.  As the NES allows the telcos to install their cellphone transmitters on any lampost or public infrastructure completely unnotified and each of the three telcos intends to have a 3G mast every 800 metres across suburban New Zealand, this law affects everybody.  WHY weren’t we told?

Perhaps it is fear of loss of advertising revenue (from the cellphone companies) that makes the mainstream media reluctant to cover the phonemast issue.  However, this does not explain why the TV news shies away from this subject.  Augumented by a heavy private security guard presence, a squad of police in riot gear along with a paddywagon and police helicopter were employed to quell the peaceful protest of  about 36 people (including children and elderly) objecting to the installation of a 2Degree phonemast at Rowan Hegley’s home, (145 Clovelly Road, Howick), early this year.  The TV newsreader that night merely said “the police were called to a protest in Howick today.”  and that was the extent of  coverage on this event.  (That same night, much mention was made of two young girls shaving their heads for charity).

Whilst denying the public coverage of such items as the above-mentioned incident in Howick, The NZ Herald enthusiatically and uncritcally accepts information provided by the cellphone companies’ PR teams.   Recently the Herald trumpeted the results of a study pupportedly showing that phonemasts are safe.  Dr David Black was quoted extensively in this article.  Dr Black’s was the only ‘expert’ opinion sought and disturbingly,  the Herald made no mention whatsoever of the fact that he works for Telecom and Vodafone.

(B) Local Media

Radio Waiheke has interviewed Dr Stuart Reuben once and myself twice (these interviews are available on their website).

Both the Gulf News and Marketplace have given excellent and impartial coverage.  Suprisingly, given the Gulf News’  recent reputation as a “green” newspaper in some people’s eyes, the Marketplace has given this issue more a bit more coverage, particularly to do with the anomalies in the council’s planning consent and ex-mayor, John Banks’ support of the campaign for safer sites.

(C) Letters To The Editor(s)

Over the last two years both local papers have published a number of letters written by those espousing the precautionary principle in relation to the safer siting of phonemasts (eg not installing masts near  kindergartens, hospitals or schools, etc.) and others opposing such caution.  Many letters have been written (I know because I wrote most of them), but this correspondence cannot be called a debate as the defenders of the cellphone industry have refused to answer any  questions at all. Sometimes this correspondence has been quite acrimonious, even downright rancorous, therefore much more entertaining judging by the messages received and people stopping me in the street at these times.

Media Watch Week 2: The Gulf News

<img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-552" title="emperorpenguin" src="" alt="Emperor Penguin" w

idth=”240″ height=”299″ />What is it they say about teaching old dogs new tricks? Well they are right. It’s a devilishly tricky business.

I refer of course to my bemusement at suddenly, in comfortable middle age, finding myself as a Lefty. It’s all rather new and strange. I’ve never been one before you see. I’ve been a student, an actor, a writer, a brewer, a folk singer, a son, a brother, a husband, an annoying menace, a beer sodden fool, and once, during the Sussex magic mushroom harvest of 1979, an emperor penguin called Betty.

But a proper Leftist/Marxist/Trotskyite/Wobbly/Red-under-The-Bed? Never. But there you go. Seems my involvement with the rest of you tiny minority agitator types over the last week or so has forced this amazing metamorphosis upon me and now I have to get used to it. Our new leaders have spoken from their Olympian heights upon the subject and they seem to know about this stuff. They are real politicians you see, and their word is law.

One glimpse at the editorial page of the Gulf News will make the change irreversible apparently. The far left propaganda of ‘Red Liz’ and her Bolshevik cohorts at April Arcade will turn you from a decent citizen into a bomb heaving anarchist before you even get to the letters page. What fascinating times we live in eh?

So bear with me ‘Comrades’ as I try and assimilate all this. I’ve been trying to remember how the lefties of my student days went about their daily business. There’s the open toed sandals and duffel coat to be worn of course. Always start with the simple stuff. Crap dress sense I can manage. But what about actually BUYING the paper? I can’t go to Woolworths obviously. That’s a huge faceless multinational that grinds the faces of the workers or some such. So it will have to be the corner store. Maybe I could even walk there and reduce my carbon footprint? Maybe not, one thing at a time. What if they bid me a good morning? Normally I’d agree but as a Lefty I might have to add that the nice weather is due to climate change and that fifteen and a half polar bears have asphyxiated in the time it took me to buy the paper. This is proving harder than I thought.

So, back home and time to read. Get a coffee on the go and…Oh hell, is it Fair Trade coffee? It doesn’t say on the packet. Back to the shop, remembering to get roll your own tobacco for that authentic ‘Solidarity with the workers’ look. No tailor mades for this lefty thank you very much. Light one of those up and you might as well vote ACT and be done with it.

With the refreshments dealt with we turn to the Gulf News. What biased reportage can we expect? Very little as it turns out. There’s a small headline at the bottom of the front page that mentions ‘dismay’ in certain quarters and a story on the new Mayor promised for page 16.the editorial is gentle and surprisingly upbeat. Not actually ‘BALANCED’ of course. They still mention that there are some people still not happy with the state of things. To be ‘BALANCED’ means ignoring that stuff apparently. But twenty three letters take us all the way to page 12 with only one NOT relating to politics and one not actually relating to Faye-Gate. Several are ones we’ve already read in the ‘Fairfax’ so no surprises there, I do wish these people would add their thoughts on One Waiheke as well.

Once again we’ll set aside the letters from board members and see how the public divides. This time it’s eleven to Denise and four to Faye. Obviously the huge majority of pro Faye letters were omitted thus proving the intolerable bias of the Gulf News. Right?

The pro-Faye letters rehash the whole Chair debate and focus entirely on the assumption that this is all her detractors care about. Hey ho, here we go again.

And so we reach page 19 and once again are urged not to get disorderly on Saturday. The article has no quotes from the G of F so once again we are in Biasville, but does manage to give some good information concerning how Saturday’s activities will develop. The story ends with a quote from the Council’s press release saying that the meeting will include ‘local entertainment’.
I rather think it will.

As for me I just want to be a Libertarian again! Is there any way I can go back to that and still think Faye Storer is well out of order?


Oh this is MUCH better! If I cast any aspersions yesterday on the ability of our independent local newspaper to get its teeth into Faye-Gate with appropriate relish then I take it all back. Full marks to Liz Waters and the team at the Gulf News for their coverage of the big story.

There it is at the top of the front page. Yet I found myself thinking; ‘Full coverage on page 14?’ That seems a long way below the fold…’ Silly me, I’d forgotten that the Editorial and letters pages come first and what a mail bag! Fifteen letters printed out of however many they actually got and thirteen of those full of teeth gnashing over the whole messy business. Read them in full I urge you. The points raised are too numerous to get into here but all are worth consideration.

Then, on page fourteen we get down to the real meat of the story. All five board members get their say and it makes for uneasy reading. Faye Storer is sticking to her ‘I’m back in power. What I say goes’ position which is no surprise. Then we finally get to hear from Don McKenzie who has been silent up to now. ‘People have nothing to worry about’ says he. Oh, well, that’s alright then. He then goes on about ‘Objective Criteria’ which, given the passion and fury raised over all this seems a rather cold and bloodless way of dealing to the matter.

Then Hannan and Holmes let it all hang out. ‘In some ways it WAS a C&R caucus’ they announce. Oh joy. Just what we needed to hear. Jim then goes on to remind us that; “I have to go with my core support. They made it clear that’s what they wanted.”

Well personally I’m keen to hear from Jim’s ‘core support’ too. They seem to be very quiet at present. Maybe they are away on holiday? Or perhaps their computers have all broken down? Apart from Graham Guthrie’s reply on this site a few days ago and a short and rather strange letter on page thirteen from Kara Nelson of all people, those in support of our new board are keeping their heads well down. Maybe next week we may see some letters arguing the Gang of Four’s position. I for one will look forward to that.

Jim Hannan is also quoted as saying; ‘I believe in honesty. I will always be totally open.’ Excellent! I believe much the same. Which is why I can say the following with total conviction; Jim, you are a prating coxcomb. You have dug yourself a hole right in the middle of a septic tank and seem determined to keep digging. I will watch your fatuous antics over the next three years the same way I watched your ludicrous predecessor Nobilangelo.

So there you have it. Week one of Faye-Gate and the papers have had their say. Well done to all at the Gulf News. With the community in turmoil and disquiet our local paper rose to the challenge and delivered the goods. Now it is up to the Marketplace to raise their game accordingly.