Case Number: 763

Council Meeting: November 1999

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Hawkes Bay Today

Ruling Categories: Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication

A complaint by Bill Peterson of Taradale that the thrust of a letter he had written to Hawke's Bay Today had been drastically changed by being abridged, has not been upheld by the Press Council. Mr Peterson further complained that the change in his letter was sufficient that he should have been advised of the changes prior to publication.

Mr Peterson's letter, published on 11 August, had highlighted suggested cost increases in the proposed redevelopment of Napier's aquarium and had called for the reopening of public debate in the issue.

Two sentences of Mr Peterson's letter were omitted. They quantified consultancy fees that had already been expended and suggested that those fees would make the cost of the redevelopment close to $9 million. Only time would reveal the correctness of Mr Peterson's figures, but they were not a matter for the Council to rule on.

The published policy of Hawke's Bay Today declares that letters to the editor may be abridged. The letter was abridged and labeled accordingly.

The Press Council's view is that the letter was abridged in a fair and reasonable manner. The omitted sentences had been framed as additional to what could reasonably be assumed was the main thrust of the letter, that the overall increased costs of the redevelopment warranted more public debate.

Despite the abridgement, the writer's meaning was still clear and there was no reason in this case for the newspaper to contact the writer before publication of the letter.

The complaint is not upheld.

The editor of the newspaper, Jim Eagles who is also a member of the Press Council, was not at the meeting when the complaint was considered.