Santa will be outside Beds R Us over the weekend, for those with last-minute requests.
A pig has gone missing from nearby Takou Bay. Also, the ruru have returned to the tree on Kerikeri Inlet Rd.
The bucolic joys of the Far North on Facebook's Kerikeri Notice Board bely an undercurrent of distress possessing those few volunteers continue to chronicle life in the province.
"It felt like they were spying," says page administrator Katy Taylor. "It was insidious. Trust - that's what they have completely destroyed."
The Far North District Council - the source of that distrust - has a different view. Chief executive Shaun Clarke says: "We're not trying to rough them up. I don't discourage people from criticising the council at all."
And yet, that appears to be what has happened. The clash between the council and the Kerikeri Notice Board is a warning shot for every community Facebook group after volunteers abandoned the page in the wake of loaded legal letters from Auckland defamation lawyers.
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As it stands now, the remaining administrator on the page - and others on other Far North community pages - are convinced the council is running a covert surveillance operation.
Documentary evidence has emerged appearing to show council communications staff apparently hiding on the members-only page in breach of its rules, reporting disturbing posts to their managers.
It has so deeply concerned those volunteers relying on council consents and permits for their jobs that they pulled out. Those remaining - like Taylor - are shaken.
Clarke denies it, utterly. Yes, they monitor the pages, he says, but do so openly. Nothing unusual about that, he says. Council monitors all media to see what ratepayers are saying.
But covert surveillance? Fear of retribution? Clarke: "It makes it sound like some sort of Wild West."
The claim of covert surveillance followed the defamation threat. When the legal letter arrived, the administrators wondered how closely council was reading the Notice Board. How did the council spot a message all five administrators had missed?
The administrators took screenshots as they searched their Facebook pages to see if council staff were members. They checked Richard Emondson's name. He was the council's communications manager who had messaged Taylor and other administrators to get contact details ahead of sending the defamation threat.
"I can't find him through the notice board," wrote one adminstrator. "He just doesn't come up." Others agreed: "I don't think he's a member", "No, can't see him."
They then tried other communications staff, also getting nothing. It was a puzzle, until a member of the page who wasn't an administrator sent a screenshot to her, showing Edmondson and other communications staff listed as members.
"Sneaky f***ers", one exclaimed. "I think they blocked me, that's why you can't see them. They blocked us all, and you're not allowed to block admins."
The assumption was based on a Facebook tool used to protect people from those they don't want to interact with online. By selecting an individual and choosing the "block" option, you become effectively invisible to them.
They sought to prove the theory. One created a fake profile - "Sam Smith" - and added the account as an administrator. Using the new profile, the adminstrator was "able to immediately find the comms team on the page".
Edmondson was kicked off the page, as were the others. When he queried his removal, he was told he had broken the Notice Board's membership rule - don't block administrators because they need to be able to see posts.
Having found Edmondson, the administrators were then able to find others in his team.
"So I'm guessing Richard alerted them to the fact they had been found out and then they all unblocked us so it looked like we were wrong," says Taylor.
Over at council, Clarke is adamant: "We simply don't do that. I strongly refute that we block administrators. What's in it for us to block the admins?"
Clarke is among council managers to have received briefings from communications staff about community social media activity.
Edmondson emailed his staff on May 6, 2019 to ask they search social media ahead of a meeting between Clarke and rogue councillor Dave Hookway.
"Would you mind doing a quick trawl of Facebook and Cr Hookway's news blog to see if Hookway has mentioned Shaun by name in derogatory comments?"
No, came the response. "Other commenters did of course but Cr Hookway was careful not to 'like' any of these comments."
And then: "He did, however, 'like' the suggestion that he should stand for mayor."
Hookway definitely liked it. He stood, lost and is no longer on council. For many council staff, it must have been a relief - he was a ferocious council critic and had gone onto council in 2016 promising change.
Clarke says there's nothing unusual about that request.
"Wouldn't you go and find out what's going on? Please don't be tempted to equate that to trawling because that would be inappropriate."
A day after the Herald spoke to Clarke, he emailed a letter emphasising how seriously he takes the claim of covert surveillance, and how thoroughly he rejects it. He has asked, and been assured, by the communications team no one blocked anyone.
"They have provided me with compelling and logical reasons why these claims are unfounded."
Those at the Kerikeri Notice Board are in error, he says.
"I do not believe that they are lying, but I do believe they are mistaken."
Clarke had the council IT department sketch out scenarios "that might lead the administrators to believe they had been blocked". Perhaps they had high privacy settings that only allowed friends to view posts, he suggested?
There were screenshots of the communications staff member's Facebook page showing no one was blocked.
"It could be argued that this staff member has unblocked the Kerikeri Notice Board administrators for the purposes of this demonstration," Clarke wrote.
But a check of the staff member's Facebook Activity log - a record of actions taken by the Facebook user - show no signs of anyone being blocked. The journey down the rabbit hole included an invitation for an independent party to view the staff member's Facebook log. It did not mentioned the ability for users to edit the log.
Clarke finished with: "I do encourage democracy and dissent and a free press, but I don't accept unsubstantiated and alarmist claims against my staff as being companions to those carefully guarded rights. I am trying to be as fair to all parties as possible."
Everybody needs good neighbours
Every town has a Facebook group. Many have more than one. They record community celebrations, happenings, indignities and injuries, manage the flow of gossip and exchange of goods and services.
This was what Taylor was after when she set the group up. It is called "notice board" because she liked the idea of a notice board at the local supermarket, where people would pin up other notes on issues that might interest the community.
The people from Inspiring Communities - a grassroots movement for community-led social change - talk about community Facebook pages creating a "bond" between people, and serving as a modern village green.
Founding member Megan Courtney, of Nelson, says the pages cost nothing to set up, have the design flexibility to meet a range of needs and allow wide coverage of issues across communities.
There's the down sides, too. Virtual lynch mobs form fast and rampage across feelings and reputations.
"I've heard of politicians and community leaders that have been personally hurt. It's hard to speak back, or speak truth, to that kind of stuff."
Rachel Roberts, who serves as communications and strategy leader for the group, says normal rules for human behaviour don't seem to apply online - and should.
"There is so much potential to inform people. But with that comes that risk - that not everybody is going to behave the way you would want them to."
There's a responsibility on the community to moderate, she says, even if they aren't administrators. The wider community should recognise the benefit of the group, and report statements that might place it in jeopardy.
Defamation threats could fly over many of the comments made on social media, says barrister Steven Price.
And yet, they don't. It surprises Price, who says he would have predicted a legal battleground if you'd asked him 20 years ago how free and unfettered comment on the internet was going to work out.
The Far North defamation situation prompts Price to point out that councils - "as a matter of defamation law" - cannot sue. "Councils are the people," says Price, and you can't have "the people" suing "the people".
Having said that, individual councillors and staff can sue, and council might consider it has a duty to support those people.
"You could say this is really unfair on these people who are usually volunteers, community-minded people. But if no one is carrying the can, people can use these forums with impunity."
Price suggests administrators get a working understanding of the law. If someone asserts a "fact", it should be provably true. If it is opinion, "encourage people who are attacking someone else to state it's their own opinion" and to explain the basis on which the view is formed.
It also occurs to Price that a war between council and local Facebook groups might not end well for the publicly accountable body.
"The administrators may have more legal and political power than they think. Councils would have to think about that."
Taylor, for example, is administrator for a host of Northland Facebook groups. While all carry some political commentary, none emphasise it or actively encourage a position.
Like the old saying goes, don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel - and the internet is a bottomless supply of ink.
Gone to the dogs, again
The comment that sparked the furore was about dogs. For the Far North council, dogs have been a canker. There have been complaints over animal welfare at council pounds, over lapsed bylaws for dog control, over new bylaws prohibiting dogs from beaches.
And there is a vocal lobby, too - the Bay of Islands Watchdogs persistent monitoring of council is like a finger jabbed repeatedly at a persistent aching wound. "Activists", the council has called them, while the group's lead organiser Leonie Exel scoffs at the idea. "I'm a 55-year-old boring person."
Council has another sore point - former councillor Dave "Bear" Hookway. Hookway, occasionally also called "Big Sexy", was elected in 2016 on a reform platform and spent much of the next three years fighting council and its staff over his blunt and combative approach. He's off council now, having opted to run for mayor and failing to incumbent John Carter.
But he's still involved in the community and so it was dogs and Hookway combined. It was his post that named the council manager and questioned value for money, competence and so on.
The comment was made on November 14. Despite the council's concern over staff welfare, no one alerted the Facebook administrators there was concerning content online. The first anyone knew there was an issue was when the defamation threat letter landed on November 26.
Clarke told the Herald the council would have taken action against anyone who made the statements Hookway did.
"We are forced into a situation where it's time to make a stand on welfare of staff in the council. It could have been anybody being tough on our staff."
But in a phone conversation with Taylor - attempting to sort out the defamation mess - he suggested otherwise.
He told Taylor: "We aren't going to take any more action with you guys. You are caught up in something that is bigger than you and I'm sorry you've been caught in the collateral of this."
Clarke explained families were under stress over the online abuse, even "kids are getting flak at school" and people wanting to quit their jobs and leave the district.
Clarke wouldn't say Hookway's name during the call, telling Taylor: "I can't afford to pussyfoot looking after my people with this particular character. I was completely loyal to him when he was a councillor but I'm not going to put up with bullying and cheating now he's not.
"If he continues to bully and cheat over your site, you're implicated."
Taylor talks of five administrators dwindling in number to, well, just her, really. The enormous reach of the council into many parts of Far North life led to concerns - unfounded, says Clarke - that those seeking consents or permits might be refused because of their links to the Notice Board.
Hookway doesn't see his actions in that light. He sees a council that needs to be held to account - one that fails to explain itself adequately to ratepayers and doesn't deal well with criticism. There's some support for this in a review of the council's openness by the Office of the Ombudsman, released this year. Carter and Clarke point to it as an endorsement of practices, managing to find positive aspects in an otherwise damning report.
Hookway deleted the comment as soon as he realised there was objection to it. And he believes - as do the Facebook administrators - the council's communications staff were carrying out covert surveillance on closed community pages.
Hookway is also concerned the social media monitoring was not normal business practice, pointing to the briefing Clarke received before their meeting.
There is "no doubt", he says, "staff were instructed to seek potential breaches of the code of conduct, as a part of an orchestrated campaign to discredit me and to silence my calls for accountability and transparency".
More claim and counter-claim - Clarke has denied exactly this, and described council as accountable and transparent.
What is clear, though, is for all the shouting, there's not much talking and the community is becoming increasingly divided.
What now, then, for the Kerikeri Notice Board? Taylor is unsure. It's an unwelcome dilemma for a busy mum raising school-age children on her own while running a small business.
Dialogue between her and other administrators - when they were involved - shows they considered removing anything referring to the council. Taylor also wonders about hitting the council head on. Nobody likes feeling bullied, which is how she is feeling, and there's a part of her determined to push back.
And that was the council's position, too. Its investigation into Hookway during the term he was on council revealed senior managers under tremendous pressure because comments he was making inspired a social media backlash. Clarke says he was obligated to protect his people.
And it's a tough job. Council communications' manager Richard Edmondson told the inquiry: "People just don't like councils. Basically, we send them a bill four times a year."
In an echo of this, Clarke said similar on the phone to Taylor: "It's an unpopular thing to do to try and run a district on the smell of an oily rag."
But does it need to be? And how does it compare to running a community notice board with volunteers and no budget while facing defamation threats?
Today the Kerikeri Notice Board reports firewood for sale at $90 a cubic metre. The local has "kittens galore". Irwin Lawson has a striking photograph of a Katydid insect in what is apparently a philodendron selloum flower.
There is no commentary about the council.