Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The curious case of Young Labour and the "defacement" of the Timaru CBD

Natblogger DPF reports that participants of the recent Young Labour Clarion Tour are being blamed for defacing' the CBD of Timaru. This involved some strategic placement of anti-National party stickers.
"The stickers appeared on Stafford Street bollards last week and Timaru ward committee chairman Cr Terry Kennedy warned people they would be fined if caught defacing the central business district."
Predictably, the National party candidate for Aoraki Jo Goodhew is feigning outrage. Purely because I was nosy of Mr Kennedy's political affiliations, I googled him.

It appears Mr Kennedy didn't even bother find a new issue. Its possible he didn't even write a new press release. Following a similar incident involving GE protesters the Timaru Herald reported on the 11th of October 2003:
Timaru ward committee chairman Terry Kennedy said he was appalled by the actions of the protesters as they had caused unnecessary mess which council officers would have to clean up.
Central South Island Tourism board member Peter Johnson said he was frustrated by the actions as it degraded the look of the inner city. "People should be free to express their views and I admire them for that but they also need to be sensible about it." Mr Johnson said the council had provided bollards for people to paste their posters on.
So clearly members of the Timaru community did not mind people posting on the bollards on this occasion.

I think it ought to be remembered that once upon a time 'central business districts' were called 'town squares'. They provided a venue for the community to gather and discuss issues. While shopping malls may be privatised town squares, the business community does not have a monopoly on 'central business districts' as these still contain significant portions of public space.

I believe any member of the public should have the ability to post a public notice without fee, fear or favour, and this right should be maintained in a free and democratic society. Of course I am not defending a right to poster up everywhere, but that there should be more prominent public bollards designated for non-commercial purposes. As Peter Johnson says, "people should be sensible about it". Wit always helps too.

If someone posts a message that is simply not true, such as 'Only a party vote for Labour can change the government' (1999), they should expect their message to be helpfully corrected.

Rather than seeing the CBD as being 'defaced' by such messages, I think it makes our towns look more alive and vibrant. I think you could argue that our central business districts can also be 'defaced' by crass commercial messages, such as the hideous green neon Starbucks sign attached to an historic building in Cathedral Square. So, is it really the message these people are objecting to?

And for the record. I am not a member of Labour in any shape or form. I am a member of the Alliance. But I recon Young Labour now owe this former Alliance researcher a beer :)

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At 10:31 AM, Anonymous yani j said...

I'll shout ya a beer anytime Joe, just need to wait until my backpay from the Council comes through.... over 4 months and still living on a 60% pay decrease :P


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