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Letter to the Editor

MAZ committee bullied
In response to Alan Preston’s letter (Mangawhai Focus, Sept 17) the removal of a thread from the Mangawhai Local’s Facebook page is not an issue of free speech.

To be clear, I am writing this letter as a private citizen. This is not a statement from the Mangawhai Activity Zone (MAZ) committee. This is my opinion only.

Freedom of speech is the freedom to be critical of those in power, such as government, police or corporations, without the fear of retaliation. It does not entail an entitlement to a specific platform such as a Facebook page. It also does not mean anyone has to listen to what you have to say.

That thread was removed by page admins after about two weeks, which was their choice and their right. It was removed because it included a large amount of uninformed criticism towards the MAZ committee, MAZ Trust and especially it’s chairman. Criticism, and also some abuse. In total it amounted to this community bullying the MAZ committee.

Freedom of speech is not the right to be able to abuse others and have your abuse retained for public record.

You are totally free Mr Preston to open up a discussion about dairy farming and vegan lifestyles on the locals Facebook page. What this community is not free to do is continue abusing MAZ committee members.

Further, because I know there will be inaccurate assumptions about this, the MAZ Facebook page has been un-published at this time simply because the secretary and social media manager has resigned and MAZ currently does not have a social media manager.

Prior to un-publishing the MAZ Facebook page I had to read through many vile and abusive posts and messages. It was extremely upsetting.

I agree that online spaces need moderation. It may at first seem perverse, but online moderation encourages freedom of speech. Without moderation of hateful and abusive speech online spaces can quickly devolve to the lowest common denominator. For a perfect example see YouTube comments. Quick removal of hate and abuse gives a clear message that all are free to express their opinions without fear of being a target of hate or abuse.

None of those being harshly critical, or abusive, towards the MAZ committee are in possession of all the information the committee had at the time they considered whether or not to renew the annual agreement between MAZ and Cool Beans. Too many people in Mangawhai have jumped to conclusions, based on partial information, and heaped abuse on a small group of people for their decision.

The people receiving this abuse are among a small group of Mangawhai residents who have given over 18,000 hours of their time over a period of 10 years to build the park you all enjoy. They are not appointed by council, nor paid by anyone, they do it for free. They are volunteers. Their work is done in the background and is often not highly visible. They deserve the respect of this community and they need your support. You don’t have to agree with every decision they make, but they deserve your understanding that their decisions may need to be made with information you do not possess.

The work of MAZ has nothing to do with the issue of dairy farming in New Zealand. I agree, it is an important issue for our environment. But to pull MAZ into a public debate about it and erode community support for their work over this issue, is in my opinion, completely unacceptable.

It has been very upsetting to see the abuse these generous people have received. There are a number of people in Mangawhai who have exposed an ugly underbelly of hatred, judgement and nastiness. This is no longer a community in which I feel welcome and this division has affected others I know in the same way.

At this time I have been asked to act again as secretary for MAZ while they take some time to find a new volunteer. I am doing this because it is the right thing to do, it is a kind and decent thing to do.

I would love to see an evolution of ethics in Mangawhai Mr Preston. Perhaps those who have abused the MAZ committee and those who have participated in publicly piling on criticism of them could take a look at the ethics of their behaviour, and consider what example this behaviour has set for our children.

Finally, I am not working as secretary for MAZ for the thanks of anyone. I would rather anyone who thinks of thanking me, instead does something to make Mangawhai a more decent and kind community.

Lara Iriarte

The Mangawhai Focus is the only 'Mangawhai' community Newspaper and is the paper of choice within the local area.

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