Rotorua Lakes Council is under fire for making a police complaint of hate speech after mayoral candidate Reynold Macpherson compared councillor Tania Tapsell to the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Tapsell has described Macpherson's comments as "hate speech" and although it was the council that lodged the complaint she said she supported the decision.
The row is over a post Macpherson made on his organisation's Facebook page, Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers, on May 14.
Macpherson shared a Local Focus video of Tapsell, published on rotoruadailypost.co.nz, in which she talks about her role on the council, referencing the environment, housing and youth running for council.
Macpherson posted the words, "Beware the charismatic pitch of the Pied Piper" with a link to the video. He also references the Pied Piper story of the rat catcher hired "to lure away the vermin that had overrun the village" before commenting on her as a councillor and her comments on the video.
In the post, he said: ''Recall, in 1284, the citizens of Hamelin hired a rat catcher to lure away the vermin that had overrun their village. And when they reneged on the deal, the Pied Piper used his magic flute again; to lure away their children.''
The post has attracted at least 152 comments.
The council last week made a formal complaint to police after the matter was raised during a confidential section of a council committee meeting.
Tapsell said Macpherson's comments were "certainly hurtful".
"I need to come out with a strong message that it is not okay and it will be taken seriously.
"I represent young voters in this community and referencing them as vermin is hateful.
"At what point does this become bullying and harmful towards others? As a politician I understand these attacks happen and I have had them a number of times over the years but because he has attacked the young people I represent, that's why I am coming out about it."
She said Rotorua was currently seeing the dangers of online bullying among young people and the implications that had.
"At what point do we say this is unacceptable?"
Tapsell said the publicity surprised her because the decision to make a police complaint was made in a confidential part of a meeting. She said she was disappointed it was leaked.
The Free Speech Coalition has criticised the council, saying the Bill of Rights clearly states people have the right to freedom of speech.
The coalition said police should not be used to shut down criticism and such actions divert police from real crime.
Coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin said the New Zealand Bill of Rights clearly stated everyone had the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.
"Calling for police intervention seems to be a serious attempt to intimidate . . . Politicians who won't meet argument with argument, and instead ask the state to punish critics are not fit to hold power."
Macpherson is overseas but in response to Rotorua Daily Post questions about his Facebook comments said: ''Not a word of the analysis was hate speech or bullying''.
When asked whether the council should be making these kinds of decisions confidentially, he replied: ''No, behaving like this offends the principles of decency, openness, accountable and democratic decision making''.
On the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers' Facebook page on Saturday, Macpherson said: "I believe that her claim is a badly advised and contrived political stunt by a confidential council committee . . . It fails to address the substantive issues raised about Cr Tapsell's performance."
He urged readers to read the original post and make up their own minds.
"Is it 'hate speech' or a performance evaluation that some would try and suppress for political purposes?"
In response to written questions, the council has confirmed a complaint was referred to the police last week on behalf of the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee which dealt with the matter during the confidential section of its meeting on May 16.
The council's response said the matter was not a confidential agenda item but was raised during the confidential section of the meeting.
When asked, the council said it did not engage a lawyer.
A police spokeswoman said police were unable to comment about the complaint.