Abuse directed at staff is unacceptable says council

Published on December 09, 2021

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Whanganui District Council has seen a serious increase in abusive messages, calls and behaviour directed at staff since the district went into the Red setting under the current COVID-19 Protection Framework.

The council’s interim chief executive, Lance Kennedy says, “We are doing everything possible to still provide services to all members of the community under this setting. “Our library, for example, is offering Book & Collect services as well as contactless delivery via the Library Home Service - and council meetings are livestreamed.”

He says, “Whanganui District Council is following Ministry of Health guidelines for the Red setting, while also completing thorough and ongoing health, safety and well-being related risk assessments. We are also mindful that we have now had a first case in the community.”

“The temporary measures we have put in place are also consistent with the approaches taken by councils in the Red setting in other districts,” he says. We will, of course, continue to review our position as the situation with COVID-19 and the Delta variant evolves.”

Lance Kennedy says the abuse is coming from a relatively small number of people who do not accept that there should be restrictions for those who do not have the ‘My Vaccine Pass’.

“The council employs over 300 people and we work with contractors right across our district to provide essential services to the community. We have an obligation as an employer to ensure that our staff are as safe as possible while they undertake their work, and our customers are safe while on council premises. And just like everyone else in our community, at the end of the working day our people go home to their own families and whānau – they want to keep them safe also.”

Mayor Hamish McDouall says, “In addition to abuse that council staff are experiencing,  I am hearing about incidents where local businesses are being targeted for their attempts to follow government guidelines and today a small protest specifically targeted the council. I support the right for people to express their views, and this includes peaceful protest.”

“However, I would like to remind people, that we need to pull together as a community to keep each other safe. The measures that Whanganui District Council, along with local government authorities across New Zealand, has put in place are fundamentally about keeping our vulnerable communities safe.”

Lance Kennedy says, “Our staff are simply following directions and should not be abused by any member of the public, whether in person, by message or e-mail, or over the phone.”

He says, “The council is looking at what steps and actions can be taken to protect our staff. This may mean bringing in security at some council sites. Where emails and phone calls to staff are threatening, intimidating, or menacing, we will consider notifying the police.”




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