Statements by member of Labour panel and complainant at odds

Simon Mitchell, a lawyer and a member of the Labour Party Council, and one of the three members of the panel that investigated complaints of bullying, abusive behaviour and assaults, has put out a statement claiming to have never been advised that there had been claims of sexual assaults.

The complainant known as ‘Sarah’ has countered with a statement from her lawyer. It claims that emails included allegations of ‘rape’.  That escalates the seriousness of the allegations (from sexual assault).

Two key things are disputed:

  • Whether emails to the panel mentioned a sexual assault
  • Whether there were attachments on the emails that mentioned a sexual assault

There could be a technical explanation for the difference over attachments – it is not uncommon for mail systems to strip attachments from emails.

It is harder to explain the difference over the contents of emails, unless whole emails were not delivered by the mail systems of all three members of thee panel.

From The Spinoff: Two statements on the Labour Party inquiry

Statement of Simon Mitchell

I was part of the New Zealand Labour Party panel that was set up to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct by one member of the Party against another.

The Panel arranged to meet with a number of individuals on 9 March.

On the morning of 9 March the complainant sent an email to me: “Hi simon, i was woundering if anyone today had printer acess? I want to be able to read off of a timeline testimoney I’ve created. Would somone be able to print this before my interview at 10.30?”

The email did not have an attachment.

I replied that she should send it to Dianna Lacy as she was opening up that morning.

The complainant sent a document to Dianna Lacy, who I am told printed a copy and gave it to the complainant.

When the complainant met with the Panel she read from a document when taking us through her concerns. She did not provide us with a copy of that document. At no point did she say that she had been sexually assaulted or tell us about the events that are described in the Spinoff article.

I have subsequently (last week) been given a copy of what the complainant sent to Dianna to print out on the morning of our interview and it does not contain any details of the sexual assault against her as described in the Spinoff article.

I met with the Complainant again on 29 May 2019 to clarify the allegations and the matters that we were investigating. At no time during that meeting did she say that she had been sexually assaulted by the subject of the complaint or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

At the conclusion of the meeting she said that she would provide me with more detailed information in the next few days.

On 10 June 2019 I emailed the complainant following up the documentation that she was to send.

On 11 June 2019 the complainant sent me an email with 3 attachments including what she refers to as her testimony. Neither the testimony nor the other attachments contain any reference to a sexual assault on her or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

On 17 June 2019, after being advised of the outcome, the complainant emailed me and the other members of the panel thanking us for our hard work.

On becoming aware of the Complainant’s allegation that she had provided me with details of the assault on her both in person and in attachments to emails sent to me on 9 March and 11 June 2019, I have had my computer system forensically examined.

There is no evidence of any attachment being sent to me on 9 March 2019.

There were three attachments to the email to me dated 11 June 2019. None of these attachments or the email itself contain any reference to a sexual assault on her or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

Response to Simon Mitchell’s statement

The complainant (the person called “Sarah” in the Spinoff’s article of 9 September) has records of three emails sent by her to Simon Mitchell between 9 March 2019 and 21 May 2019 in which Mr Mitchell was made aware of there being allegations of sexual assault.

These emails have been provided to Labour Party lawyers Kensington Swan, who have been requested to provide the emails to the reviewers conducting the independent review of the internal investigation.

In the earliest email, sent by the complainant on Mar 9, 2019 at 9:35 AM to Mr Mitchell, the complainant attached two documents, one outlining the sexual assault in depth (this document contained sexual assault in the file name of the document) and the other the complainant’s testimony, which also outlines allegations of sexual assault. Attached is a screenshot of this email and the attachments.

The other two emails sent by the complainant to Mr Mitchell were also sent (simultaneously by cc) to the two other members of the investigation panel as well as Labour Party President Nigel Haworth, and another NZ Council Member. These emails were as follows:

  • Email sent by the complainant on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:28 in which the complainant draws the investigation panel’s attention to the seriousness of the allegations, including the allegation of “rape”.
  • Email sent by the complainant on Tuesday, 21 May 2019 11:00 PM in which the complainant again draws the investigation panel’s attention to the seriousness of the allegations, including the allegation of “rape”.

The complainant maintains that she went into detail about the sexual assault during the 9 March interview and that Mr Mitchell was present and engaged.

The complainant is struggling to understand why Mr Mitchell would make these statements when he sat through her giving testimony of the sexual assault.

The complainant is not the only person who made allegations of a sexual nature during the internal investigation.

The complainants are hugely disappointed that Mr Mitchell has come forward with his statement just as the complainants and the Labour Party are making some positive progress.

The complainants await the outcome of the independent review of the internal investigation announced by the PM this afternoon.

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern announced that there would be two inquiries, the already initiated inquiry by Maria Dew that will only re-investigate the complaints, and another inquiry that will investigate the handling of the complaints by the Labour Party.

She also said:

“My view is that is continuing to contest this in the public domains serves nobody. I am absolutely focused here on creating an environment that is a place that complainants can be heard by a QC, not the party, where there is not that contested question over what was told.”

That was after Mitchells statement but before ‘Sarah’s’ statement.

Moroney jumps ahead of Labour list release

Sue Moroney is quitting before she is effectively dumped by Labour after being given an ‘unelectable’  party list position and being told that  “she had lost support from the party’s ruling council”. Ouch.

She must also not rate her chances of winning an electorate.

RNZ: Labour to release party list

A party list ranks MPs and it dictates who will get a seat in Parliament, depending on the result of the party vote at the election.

Labour’s moderating committee has to follow party rules, including ranking the list to make sure half of the caucus are women.

That has to be balanced against the leader Andrew Little’s promise to give Willie Jackson a high list position, and the fact that Mr Little and the senior MP Trevor Mallard are also list-only candidates.

David Parker is also a list MP, and is the only Labour MP with experience as a minister in government.

There’s already been one casualty, with MP Sue Moroney announcing she will stand down, after failing to get an electable position.

She said she was told last night she had lost support from the party’s ruling council.

But pre-empting this: Moroney to quit politics after lower list ranking

She said she made the decision after she was not ranked high enough on the party list.

Ms Moroney has been an MP since 2005 and was the party’s chief whip while David Cunliffe was leader in 2013 and 2014.

There’s already been one casualty, with MP Sue Moroney announcing she will stand down, after failing to get an electable position.

She said she was told last night she had lost support from the party’s ruling council.

Labour leader Andrew Little said he understood her reasons for standing down and that her contribution to the Labour caucus would be missed.

Moroney is currently ranked 16 by Labour but apart from Trevor Mallard (at 24) all the other MPs below her are electorate MPs.

Her record:

  • 1996 contested Karapiro, 31 on list (unsuccessful)
  • 2005 contested Piako, 42 on list, became a list MP
  • 2008 contested Hamilton East (lost by 8,820), 22 on list
  • 2011 promoted to front bench by Phil Goff
  • 2011 10 on list
  • 2013 appointed Chief Whip by David Cunliffe
  • 2014 10 on list

She was not rated as highly by Little when he became party leader, and has now been told to bugger off by the Labour council.

It will be interesting to see the Labour list, with a party requirement to have a reasonable gender balance.

This may have been tricky with Little, Parker and Mallard relying on the list as well as an apparent promise of a winnable list position for Willie Jackson.

Currently 12 of Labour’s 31 MPs are female, with Moroney and Annette King not standing again.


Auckland Council votes against deep sea drilling

The new Auckland City Council should have many important issues to deal with, like transport, housing, trying contain rampant rates rises.

But they took time out from council business yesterday to make a political statement.

NZ Herald: Auckland Council votes against deep sea oil drilling

Auckland councillors have voted 14-7 against deep-sea oil exploration off the west coast of the North Island.

At a governing body meeting today they said oil exploration could have a catastrophic effect on the coastal and ocean environment, and industries such as fishing and tourism.

The decision also referred to the “critically endangered Maui’s dolphin and other cetaceans living in the Tasman Sea” and to avoiding the “catastrophic impacts of climate change” and to achieving “the Paris goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels”.

Voting against an offer of oil exploration in the Government’s 2017 block offer, the councillors believed the overall economic benefit to Auckland of deep sea oil would be negligible.

“Rather than encourage further oil exploration, effort should instead be put into developing abundant clean energy opportunities and strategies that can create employment and replace polluting energy sources,” the amendment said.

So a city council is voting against a national Government matter.

I don’t think Auckland City has many suburbs in the deep sea. I don’t think they even have any special housing areas proposed for deep sea locations.

The encroachment of political activism into city administration seems to be a growing thing – unlike deep sea drilling which is hardly a pressing issue, around New Zealand it is on the back burner anyway.

Candidate vows to reduce council costs

An Auckland mayoral candidate has vowed to cut council costs. Wow. A unique approach that would stand out would be to vow to increase costs, but no one seems to try that.

NZ Herald: Phil Goff vows to cut council costs

Labour MP Phil Goff vows to cut fat, introduce road charges and cap rates rises at 2.5 per cent if he wins the Auckland mayoralty in nine weeks.

His fiscal policy, out today, contains a pledge to restore public confidence in the management of ratepayer money.

His fix involves capping rates at 2.5 per cent or less, cutting council spending by between 3 and 6 per cent and introducing road charges.

“Vows to cut fat” will probably, and rightly, be viewed with some scepticism by voters.

But I think there is more to question here.

If spending is reduced by 3-6% and road user charges are introduced how come there is a capping of rates at 2.5% or less? Shouldn’t that read reducing rates by 2.5%?

Ok, no one would believe that, but how does Goff’s maths work? Reduce costs, increase user charges and still allow for rates increases? Something doesn’t add up to me there.

Another point, bot in relation to Goff’s policy and also relevant to the Wellington mayoral candidates who on The Nation all appeared to say they would limit rates rises to about 3%.

Inflation is under 1%, and has been low for some time with no sign of a major change to this.

Why are candidates happy to propose that rates continue to grow significantly ahead of inflation rates?

And thirdly, pledging to cap rates doesn’t make sense. Should inflation suddenly take off does anyone expect that rates caps would remain?


Transport and roading problems

Dunedin hasn’t just been having problems with hospital food, there are ongoing problems with transport and roading.

The city’s transport group manager has just resigned, five months after replacing the previous manager who resigned while on holiday amidst controversy over a botched cycleway project that had to be redone at considerable expense.

This picture of mayor Dave Cull was posted on Facebook yesterday:

ODT: Second manager departs

The Dunedin City Council has lost its second transport group manager in less than six months.

Ian McCabe has resigned, citing personal reasons, just five months after replacing Gene Ollerenshaw in the role in November last year.

Staff in the council’s transport department have been in the spotlight over mud-tank maintenance failings, which followed the botched roll-out of South Dunedin cycleways.

An election is coming up with current mayor Dave Cull standing again, but he must be under pressure. This was posted on Facebook in the weekend:


Mud tank maintenance (or rather, the lack of maintenance) has been a big issue since the South Dunedin floods last year.

But cycle lanes promoted by a green leaning council are an ongoing issue and have been of great annoyance to many people.

Some cycleways have been popular, like the peninsula paths on widened roads and the west harbour walkway/cycleway from the city to St Leonards is well used, to a large extent by recreational users.

Botched South Dunedin cycleway project that blew up when it was discovered fire engines were hampered by redesigned intersections.

But cycle paths tacked on to central city streets have also been very contentious. Car parks on both sides of Anzac Avenue were converted into cycleways that are hardly used – I use Anzac Avenue almost daily and while cyclists can be spotted occasionally they are rare.

More contentious is the proposal to convert car parks along both one way streets through the city (state highway 1) into cycleways. Safety of cyclists is important, but so is the needs of motorists.

The green council seems to think that if better cycleways are provided the city’s commuters will suddenly start biking to work. Some of them may, some of the time.

But the weather in Dunedin isn’t always perfect for cycling, and there are days, especially during the winter, where the bike lanes will be virtually empty (already that’s true of many days) and the traffic will clog up more than ever.

Making the centre city more cycle friendly is actually likely to be counter-productive to green ideals – people are more likely to drive their cars to retail options outside the CBD that still provide good parking.

I hope the city council manages to recruit a new transport manager that understands all of this.


Addressing voter turnout

There’s no doubt there is a major problem with voter turnout and voter turnoff at local body level.

I’ve seen it up close in Dunedin, where turnout this year dropped about 10% to 43%. Comments indicated that people were not interested, not motivated, and they didn’t know anything or much about council or candidates. Many people who voted only had a vague idea who and what they were voting for.

ODT report University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards ‘Dire’ voter turnout spurs inquiry suggestion.

A ”big discussion” was needed about the problem at a national level, probably most appropriately through an inquiry, University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards said.

”A big part of the problem is that so much of the public don’t feel comfortable or confident in their choices because it is so hard to know what the actual ramifications are of voting for a lot of the candidates.”

A bigger problem is that people don’t know and/or don’t care. Apathy abounds.

All options for improving voter and candidate engagement needed to be considered in discussions, including all voting systems, such as compulsory voting, online voting and polling booths, he said.

These things certainly need consideration.

However, he believed reintroducing political parties into the contest would do the most to turn things around by giving voters a better idea of what candidates stood for.

I have serious doubts with this, I’ll address parties in local politics in a separate post.

The more technical fixes, such as voting systems, should be part of the debate, but people should not think that taking things online, for example, would dramatically change voter turnout.

Postal voting was brought in as a way of arresting the decline in voting and that had worked for a while.

”We might well see that with electronic voting too, but you actually need some substance with what’s on offer in the end regardless of its form of delivery.”

The biggest problem is not with how we can vote, it is in disinterest in voting.

Yes, you need some substance, but you can’t suddenly create substance in a month long campaign, especially involving so many candidates. In  Dunedin we voted for mayor, council, community boards (83 candidates), health board (13 candidates) and regional council (10 candidates). That’s over a hundred candidates, most of whom most voters haven’t heard of.

Add to that the complication of voting a mix of using both First Past the Post and STV. I’d bet that most people couldn’t say what STV stands for or how it works.

The practicality of providing in depth information about all these candidates is difficult to overcome. Few of us have any chance of being sufficiently informed about one hundred candidates.

I certainly wasn’t well enough informed about all of them, and I was more involved in the election than most people, standing for mayor and for council.

Some people did get to know about me during the campaign, but that was a small minority, and most people that got to know about me had some interest or involvement in politics and the election and would never consider voting for me.

The majority of people had never heard of me and in a month or two most of the minority who voted and might have seen my name or something about me will have forgotten.

It is difficult to overcome the number of votes and the number of candidates. Tweaking the way we vote will change little. Voting is like preparing for an exam that you haven’t done any study for.

One solution is to focus on the term and not the election. If people had a reason to become interested and engaged in local politics during the term, if they saw more of what our elected councils and boards did and had a way of engaging then they would have more interest and knowledge at election time.

This is what I will be working on, informing the public more and giving the public more and better ways of engaging throughout the term.

This won’t be easy, and it won’t be a quick fix, but I think it’s what needs addressing the most. Most people won’t be interested most of the time – but they need an easy and effective way of getting involved when they want to.

If people feel that they will be genuinely be listened to when they want to speak up they will be more inclined to make the effort to engage. And they will be more inclined to vote in three years time.

Can you vote for a democratic revolution in Dunedin?

If you have Dunedin voting papers and haven’t voted yet then you can.

We can change the way we do democracy in Dunedin. Informed democracy. More robust engaged democracy.

We can give the people of Dunedin a strong voice in council, a strong voice in what the city does and what the city becomes.  Vote for a revolution in democracy in Dunedin, we will lead the way. Then it will grow and spread.

Digital democracy plus the power of the people.

Dunedin has many young people with energy and ideas. And older people who want a new, much better way of doing politics. Turn that into action. Vote for the revolution.

I have used this election campaign to promote a revolution in how we do democracy in Dunedin. It is going to happen. Your vote will make it happen faster, sooner, better.

I’ve been working on this for several years. I talked about it on Radio One two years ago, during the last election.

We can make the council work with the people, for the people. Full social media engagement. Public engagement. The current council only dabbles with social media, they only do selective transparency. We will do it fully, properly.

Council will become much more transparent, it will properly keep the people informed.

Informed people will then tell the council what they want. Well informed opinion expressed with strength in numbers, will be difficult for council to ignore.

People outside council are ready to make it happen. Other candidates want to make it happen, whether they get in to council or not.

  • If necessary we will do it from outside council.
  • If you vote me into council I will push it from the inside, working with those on the outside.
  • If enough of you vote for me for mayor I will lead the revolution in informed democracy from the top.

Vote Pete George for mayor, and Pete George for council. The more votes the better.

You can vote for a democratic revolution in Dunedin. In three weeks time we could begin.

I will be interviewed on The Revolution Will Not Be Televised on Radio One this morning at 11 am.

Dunedin Mayoral Profile – Pete George

A profile done by the Otago Daily Times.

What do you know about the 2013 mayoral candidates? Council reporter Debbie Porteous puts the questions to Pete George.

Software consultant Pete George says he will give every person in Dunedin a much better opportunity to be effectively heard in council, with substantially improved communications and methods of engagement, online and via public meetings.

Why are you standing?

Because I believe I can be a better mayor than what we have got. The DCC survey that just came out showed satisfaction with mayor and council was down eight [points] to 33%. The public are saying something and I decided I’d put myself up to offer them an alternative.

What is your vision for the city?

My key vision goes back to my main policy plank – to be a much better engaged city, between the council and the people of the city.

What are the major issues facing Dunedin?

Everyone’s talking about economic development, I’m certainly strong on that, but one thing I’m also talking about that’s different from everyone else is increasing transparency, increasing communication, increasing engagement with the public. The council has to deliver information far better than it does. They’ve made some moves towards it, but there’s a lot of things that aren’t being put out there yet. There’s a lot of things the mayor and councillors are doing that aren’t published, they are doing it on their own, without it being in the public domain.

Like what?

The cat committee, the warrant of fitness rental housing. On both of those, I’ve talked to councillors who knew nothing about them. Another good example from last year was the fracking political statement. The first I heard about it was in the ODT, and it is still not on the website. Whether you are for or against it, it’s very, very poor transparency.

There’s plenty of examples. The more I look, the more I see. Information needs to get out to the public far more quickly and transparently. From the people’s side, the people’s panel, which I’ve been a part of since it was set up, is a good step, but it’s very council-centric, with the council asking people what it wants to know about its questions. What we should have is a people’s panel where the people actually can control the questions and put them to the council, so people can communicate back to the council far better. The idea is to use social media extensively, but also public meetings.

For example, the [University of Otago] Centre for Theology and Social Issues has been having some really good public discussions. Those things should feed back to the council. Where it’s justified, there should be polling of the public on issues, too. The problem we have now is things are often driven by small-interest groups that speak the loudest, that put the most submissions in, that know how to use the system. The council portrays that as public opinion, but it’s actually minority opinion that might not represent what the wider public opinion is.

How would you get more people to become part of council processes?

Council should put everything on its website. There’s a lot of things they don’t put on their website. There’s things I look for that I can’t find and would expect to be able to. I don’t think a lot of money would need to be spent. It’s just a chance of attitude and change in the way they deliver information. It’s very easy to put everything online – businesses are doing it all over the place. There’s a lot of tools readily available.

Unless you give people the opportunity to engage more, you won’t know how it will work. There is no use saying: ‘They’re apathetic; we won’t bother trying’. They need to have a means of feeling like they are being listened to. If the information is available and they choose not to do anything, no excuses. A lot of the information will be boring, and not all of it will blow up into a big issue.

The sooner you get all the balanced information out there, the more effective it can be. The longer it takes to get that information out there, the longer it takes to effect what has already been put in motion.

So, as quick as possible and with modern social media, and working with other media.

What are the other issues for the council?

On economic development, council should be vigilant for opportunities and be quick off the mark, as I was recently when I proposed a consortium approach to getting as much of the IRD IT upgrade business for Dunedin as possible. The Economic Development Unit say they are now working on this.

Council blocking of initiatives also needs to be addressed, like the Caversham-Chain Hills rail tunnel trail that has been interfered with for eight years. If opened, this would be great for commuters and recreational cyclists, and it could be huge for tourism, effectively extending the [Otago] Central Rail Trail to Aramoana and Portobello.

An issue coming out is the Greater Dunedin versus the rest thing. What we are potentially faced with a group that don’t like to call themselves a party, but they look and act like a party. We could get situation where we have one group with the mayor and potentially eight councillors on council.

And, if the voters want that, that’s fine, but they should be aware of what they are voting for, and what the possibilities are there. And what I’ve noticed more and more, is there is a strong green leaning in that group. There are several things the mayor is working on that are basically green policies, for example the warrant of fitness for homes and the living wage.

What are your politics then?

I’m a member of the United Future party. I ran unsuccessfully at the last general election.

How will that influence you on council?

I joined them and they asked me to stand because of the work I was doing in 2011 on promoting local representation and they saw that and said: ‘That fits with us; will you stand?’, so that’s why I joined them.

Since then, I have been able to meet a lot of people in politics. I’ve got good connections in different parties, I think that will very valuable to council’s lobbying.

Are people voting for you, voting for United Future’s policies then?

No, that’s got nothing to do with it.

I hope we can get what we can get working here with public engagement and push that through to the party, to all parties.

What would be your strengths as a leader?

As mayor I will be a stronger voice for Dunedin, and provide a stronger voice in council for the people of Dunedin. Stronger voice. People’s choice. I will be an impartial mayor without council baggage and without favour for any special interest or activist groups. I’ve also got very well developed financial skills, as well as people and problem-solving skills through my work.

How much will spend on your campaign?

Several thousand dollars. My campaign spending has been smart, innovative and frugal, an approach I will taken into council.

How are you funding it?

My wife and I are funding it.

What community involvement have you had?

I’ve been involved in trying to find ways to get the ratepayers’ association back in action. There is something in place that is on hold until after the election. I’ve been involved in anti-violence and anti-child abuse campaigning in Dunedin and nationally.

How many council and committee meetings have you sat in on in past few years?

None. I’ve been following it in the media. The timing of that is not suitable for someone who works during the day. There has to be more engagement at different times, evenings.

Who are your supporters?

People that want to see more public voice, who want to see council held to account more. I have support from several councillors, but it’s more ordinary-people support and online support. I’m getting thousands of views a day on some of the things I’m doing at the moment.

Green Dunedin candidate lies

Rival mayoral and council candidate Aaron Hawkins (standing for Green Dunedin) has posted at The Daily Blog in Dunedin Mayoral Hopefuls Do The (Climate) Denial Twist

Pete George has consistently refused to answer my question “Do you believe man made climate change is real and we need to take urgent action to address it”

I am not aware of Hawkins ever asking me any question like that. I have certainly not refused to answer.

Therefore this appears to be a blatant lie from Hawkins.

For the record:

I believe climate change is real, and we should be taking action. There is legitimate debate about what sort of action should be taken.

Sometimes sport takes over

There’s a lot going in with Labour’s leadership – and their current leadership vacuum. Sort of interesting as it plays out, but that’s going to take a few weeks.

But this morning sport is most prominent in my mind.

I’ve been watching an absorbing finish to the Ashes series, with a win in the final game possible until bad light and an umpiring decision to call it quits prevailed.

Lydia Ko has scorched into the lead in the final round of the Canadian Open where she is defending her title.  She’s just gone to 5 under after eight holes to hold a 3 shot lead.

But the growing glow after Otago’s Ranfurly Shield win hold pride of place. An edge of the couch finish to the game followed by elation I don’t think I’ve experienced before in a game I haven’t played in. Followed by a weekend of jubilation around Otago as the reality set in. I went to the stadium yesterday to see the shield in Otago hands for the first time for me (and many others).

I’ve booked seats for next Sunday’s challenge, and now anticipate an unprecedented build up through the week. I’m going to drop into a radio station breakfast this morning.

Isn’t there an election campaign on? Yeah, but the significance of the shield is dominating all the local news – and many local thoughts. So let’s enjoy it while we’ve got it.

There was plenty of pride, passion and determination evident in Otago’s win on Friday.

I was planning on pride, passion and determination in my election campaign. That’s still the plan.

And I’m determined to do what I can to instil more pride and passion in leadership in Dunedin city through the next council.

The Otago rugby team will hold the shield for as long as they are able to. This is a real boost to the province and to Dunedin. But it will only be temporary.

In Dunedin it will be up to the next mayor and a new council to continue determination, pride and passion for the city and for the people of the city.