Court bid to silence critic

By Mike Barrington

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The Far North District Council is making a new bid to muzzle growling watchdog Des Mahoney.

The outspoken critic of council activities has been served with an application for a restraining order issued under the Harassment Act 1997, seeking restrictions on his comments about the council.

The application, to be heard in the Kaikohe District Court on February 11, was made by a council staff member and is supported by an affidavit from a senior council manager.

Mr Mahoney said he understood from court documents that the council's in-house lawyer was acting for the applicant.

Council communications manager Richard Edmondson said he had discussed a Northern Advocate request for information about the application with the council's in-house legal counsel.

"The council won't be making any comment while the issue is before the court, but we may be in a position to comment after the court has dealt with the matter," Mr Edmondson said.

In October 2012, the council resolved to stop advertising in the Northland Age, a sister paper of the Advocate.

The council's records showed the decision was made after a discussion about Mr Mahoney's letters to the Kaitaia newspaper.

The council claimed the Age encouraged Mr Mahoney's letter-writing to the paper, which had caused unreasonable concern for councillors.

On November 29, 2012 and following a meeting between Mayor Wayne Brown and Age editor Peter Jackson, the council decided to revoke the resolution.

Mr Brown said there was never any intention to withdraw council advertising.

"The issue, as the council saw it, was that, while correspondents had an unquestioned right to criticise, in the past issues had been re-litigated long after they had been addressed by the council," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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