West Coast iwi leaders cop ‘racist, revolting, hate-filled’ emails

A tirade of “racist, revolting” emails targeting West Coast iwi and council leaders has been called out.

The emails have targeted some members of a committee overseeing the development of the West Coast’s combined district plan, the Te Tai o Poutini Plan (TTPP).

And as the TTPP governing body met in Westport on June 19 it heard submitters to the plan had also been copied into the email tirade allegedly generated by a single individual.

The TTPP Committee resolved to take a stand via a public statement, about the activities of the emailer who does not reside on the West Coast.

Te Rūnunga o Makaawhio chairman Paul Madgwick, a newspaper editor of 20 years, described what he had been receiving as “hate filled”.

“They were the most racist, revolting emails I have encountered to be honest,” he said.

Madgwick, along with Te Rūnunga o Ngāti Waewae chairman Francois Tumahai, represents Poutini Iwi on the TTPP.

Madgwick said the emailer behind the vitriol had been generating hundreds of “revolting” emails on a daily basis.

”The early emails were targeting myself and Francois as iwi representatives.”

But they had then escalated to target Westland District Council representatives and staff, he said.

The West Coast Regional Council - which provides the secretariat for the development of the TTPP – was also a prime target. ”We all copped it,” Madgwick said.

Madgwick said the emails were highly defamatory, with claims that iwi representatives were “on the take” in their role with the TTPP.

”We are quite used to copping abuse - and we’ve all had our share I’m afraid - but this goes way beyond.”

The author has quietened down in the last couple of weeks, but (emails) dribbled out from time to time.

”It is not acceptable for any member of the committee to be targeted,” Madgwick said.

The emailer had access to hundreds of addresses belonging to TTPP submitters so blocking was not practical, the meeting heard.

But council staff and committee members needed to be protected from abuse, Madgwick said.

Buller mayor Jamie Cleine said he was unaware of it.

Regional council chief executive Darryl Lew said the matter was now in the hands of the police.

All his staff had been briefed as well on a strategy for safety. A mugshot had been circulated and the council’s internal systems were being bolstered, he said.

“This guy crossed the line and I think he is dangerous.”

Cleine asked if there had been a security breach, if TTPP submitters’ emails had leaked out.

Lew said they had been gained by legitimate means.

Greymouth mayor Tania Gibson said she had just been advised her council’s planning team had received the emails but not taken it up the line.

It unfortunately reflected what local government representatives had experienced post-Covid, including the tactic of “being hassled by filming,” she said.

Madgwick said the issue had quietened somewhat after the Westland District Council called out a series of targeted social media posts several weeks ago.

Westland District Council Mayor Helen Lash recounted how the Hokitika-based council had made a strong public statement about social media vitriol directed at its staff and representatives, and consequently individuals were now contacting them directly rather than letting loose on social media.

Madgwick said for Poutini Ngai Tahu’s part, it had taken practical steps to protect staff workplaces given the emailer was “inciting hatred”.

But a long-standing Hokitika resident, with the same name as the emailer, had unfortunately now been wrongly identified as the perpetrator.

That needed to be put right, Madgwick said.

“Given that (the emails) have been broadcast so widely with no response (to date), there should be a firm response.”

“I appreciate the support expressed today. A statement of solidarity may help.”

West Coast Police Area commander Inspector Jacqui Corner confirmed to Local Democracy Reporting on June 19 that the police are taking seriously a complaint laid by the West Coast Regional Council against a man who is accused of sending hundreds of nuisance emails.

Corner said police had visited the individual over his activities, which had evolved into a “scatter gun approach” of emails to a large range of recipients.

At this point the man’s activities were being monitored closely.

“The content is more nuisance than any direct threat of anybody.”

Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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