Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Call for Williamson to be investigated after questionable comment

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Howick ward councillor Maurice Williamson. File photo supplied
  • By Laura Kvigstad, Auckland Council reporter, Funded by New Zealand on Air

Howick ward councillor Maurice Williamson’s hot-mic moment has landed him in hot water with Auckland Council.

Williamson was attending the Planning, Environment and Parks Committee meeting online on November 30 when his microphone went live.

He appeared to accuse Wellington mayor Tory Whanau, who is currently the subject of controversy, of publicly engaging in embarrassing behaviour, a comment heard by committee members.

The Times is unable to report the specifics of what Williamson said as it was based on an unsubstantiated rumour.

His comment stems from news reports Whanau was intoxicated while at a Wellington bar during a recent night out.

She has this week admitted she has a drinking problem and is seeking help for it.

There was an outcry from members around the table but when Williamson was asked for an apology there was silence.

Just minutes before the comment, he’d been noticeably absent for a vote.

This follows from a week prior where the councillor had been missing in action when a notice of motion he emailed disappeared.

Cr Shane Henderson tried to give Williamson some grace, calling the moment an accident.

“There is a worrying trend of councillors’ online attendance. These phone incidents are happening every meeting,” Henderson said.

The advent of online attendance has presented issues at council with other similar microphone disruptions and absences despite appearing online.

As the meeting was coming to a close, Williamson chimed in to apologise, appearing unaware what was broadcast.

“If something came through, I had an arrow through the microphone, I apologise for it,” he said.

“It was never meant to be over the microphone. I am at an end-of-life care centre.”

Independent Māori Statutory Board member Tau Henare wasn’t having a word of the councillor’s apology and called on the chair to sanction Williamson for his comment.

“‘At an end-of-life care centre’ – stop trying to get out of it,” Henare said.

“What an ugly man Maurice has turned out to be.”

Deputy mayor Desley Simpson tried to signal to the chair to mute Williamson and Henare.

Williamson’s apology didn’t cut it for Cr Julie Fairey, who suggested the comments were grounds for defamation.

“This is way beyond apology grounds, mate. This has serious implications,” Fairey said.

Chair Richard Hills said it was a serious matter and would need to be investigated by the council’s chief executive.

“If what has been said has been said it will be investigated. This will obviously be taken further,” Hills said.

The council has since taken down the section of the broadcast where the remark was made.

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