How city councillors voted on the Christchurch $683 million stadium proposal continues to create division as some say a “deliberately misleading” social media post is creating a “toxic discussion” online.
The post shared by councillors Phil Mauger, James Gough, Sam Macdonald and Aaron Keown says: “Te Kaha (Canterbury multi-use arena) will be built!”. It’s followed by a table listing those who “voted for”, “voted against” and “declared conflict”.
Sara Templeton, Celeste Donovan and Melanie Coker – the only three councillors who voted against spending an extra $150m on the stadium – say it suggests they opposed the building of a stadium, and not the cost of it. .
“The vote wasn’t on whether to build the stadium or not, the vote was on whether to spend the additional $150m,” Templeton said.
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A majority of commenters on the posts congratulated Mauger, Gough, Macdonald and Keown, but some attacked Templeton and Donovan, with Templeton specifically called a “nutcase”, “petulant” and “silly”.
“It’s really disappointing,” Templeton said.
The dissenting councillors always knew their votes on such a “contentious issue” were going to draw heat on either side, but Templeton emailed those who shared the post on Saturday requesting they take the misleading graphic down, she said.
Donovan agreed they should take the post down and apologise.
“It’s important that in any discussion around a really emotive topic for a lot of people, that we just stick to the facts… We’re all aware that the debate was around the extra $150m, it wasn’t a for or against a stadium.”
She said councillors had a responsibility to represent their own views and the views of others fairly.
“That is where they have really let themselves down, and I think that drives a very toxic discussion.
“We all know that social media tends to lean to the negative and I think they should be aware of that when they put those posts up.”
Coker said it could be seen as a “political stunt with the election in mind”.
“They’re trying to polarise the public one way or the other.”
She was “not too fussed” about the social media post, but agreed it did not reflect the fact no-one opposed the stadium, “we’re against the cost of this one”.
She had lost sleep worrying about what it would mean for the council’s debt limits in three years’ time.
On Saturday, mayoral candidate Phil Mauger said he saw the post and thought “it just said the way people voted”.
“I don’t want to go out of my way to piss people off, that’s not me. I haven’t read my emails, but I will have a look and I will … if it’s upsetting people I will certainly get rid of it.”
After reading some of the comments, he later agreed “that’s not flash”.
“But Sara has been anti the stadium for some time. When we voted to go from 25,000 seats to 35,000 seats I think she was the only one who voted against it. So she’s consistent, and I take my hat off to her really, because she follows what she believes in.”
The post was still on his page on Sunday afternoon.
Gough said he was not aware of any derogatory comments made on his post, and would usually remove inappropriate comments if alerted to them.
He felt it was an appropriate “way to respond to the interest in the community on the matter” and would not be taking it down.
Claims that it was misleading were “complete semantics”, he said.
Macdonald said his graphic designer made the image, and he shared it “to be open and transparent” about an important issue.
“There’s nothing malicious about it.”
He had not seen anything toxic arise from it, and would not be removing it.
Innes Ward council candidate Ali Jones stood by her decision to share the “factually correct” post, saying records of elected members’ decisions were important for democracy.
In a statement on Facebook she said it had “created some really positive and intelligent conversation from a range of people”.
“It has also attracted awful and abusive responses from people who have posted in support of the councillors who voted against the resolution.”
Stuff was alerted to the posts by a ratepayer concerned that those who voted against it were receiving sexist and derogatory online abuse as a result.
For example, they said they saw one comment that said “what would you expect from women when it comes to sport”.