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31 March 2021

The internet is a wonderfully empowering medum.

Unfortunately it's also a medium that can be readily abused and misused to cause harm and distress.

The ability to fire off quick messages and comments without taking the time to reflect and consider the prudence of statements that may be driven by high emotion can, and does, lead to cyberbullying. Whilst a quick "venting" of one's anger and frustration may be cathartic for the writer, it can be devastating to the target of those statements.

This is why New Zealand has The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, a piece of legislation that makes it illegal to engage in acts of cyberbulling.

Perhaps someone should tell the Mayor of the South Waikato, Jenny Shattock QSM.

The reason I say this is because recently, Ms Shattock posted a message to Facebook that almost certainly met the criteria of "threatening or offensive material and messages" that the Act was created to prohibit.

I posted a copy of this message in the forums but believe, due to the lack of apology or remorse involved, it's something that should get a wider audience and for that reason, I include it here:

Now this is not the first time that Ms Shattock has unleashed the guns of her vitriol against someone in a Facebook post and I suspect it will not be the last. Fortunately, I'm a big-boy who was raised in an era where, instead of claiming to be a victim at every opportunity, we simply followed the old saying "sticks and stones...".

Of course some of what Ms Shattock says is true... but much of it is patently untrue, as many in the community will attest to. In fact, just this past weekend I was given a lovely $50 teeshirt by the organiser of the local cheese-rolling contest, an annual event that raises funds for the community. Every year I roll up and do a drone flight demonstration, much to the delight of the crowd. I also find myself getting roped in to help with a few Lions projects as a result of my wife's involvement in this community service organisation. Then, of course, there is the relentless promotion of the town that I perform by way of my YouTube channels -- promotion that (pre covid) draws a good number of people from around the world to our lonely little airfield.

So if I appear unaffected by this outburst on the part of someone who is supposedly so responsible, respected and mature as to receive a Queen's Service Medal and hold the office of Mayor -- why am I writing today's column about this matter?

Well, although I'm made of stern enough stuff, I worry that there may be those out there who are not and might not be able to weather the storm of such a verbal assault without suffering very real emotional harm. My concern is for the wellbeing of others that may invoke the wrath of Ms Shattock's imprudent outbursts.

I also find her actions outrageously hypocritical.

In her little tirade, she accuses me of making personal comments about the deputy mayor (whose apperance I critiqued in a recent video posted to social media). How then, can she justify making a far more outrageous personal statement targeting me?

Ah... but as we know, the language of politics is hypocrisy and Ms Shattock seems well versed in this lexicon.

The further irony of this situation is that the deputy mayor recently faced a Code of Conduct action for insulting a member of the public who was presenting a submission during a phase of the consultation process undertaken by council. Calling a ratepayer "a waste of space" would indicate that Councilor Machen is not averse to the use of personal comments and would thus be unphased by receiving them himself.

And just what was the comment I made which got the Mayor so fired up that she decided to vent on Facebook?

Well I suggested that perhaps the deputy mayor could have made more of an effort with his appearance in this video, given that YouTube and Facebook are global publishing platforms and politicians effectively reflect the standards and aspirations of their people. Clearly Ms Shattock agrees that presenting a good image is important because, as you'll see at the start of that video, she scrubs up well and looks very tidy.

Sadly, this whole situation demonstrates exactly why the South Waikato will never live up to its full potential under the current local government administration.

And, it would seem, I am not the only one who believes that we could do better, with one of the town's most respected councilors also crossing swords with Ms Shattock recently. This from the council's own minutes:

"Cr Glucina yelled at Her Worship, called her a liar, that she was a self-serving mayor, that she was the worst Mayor, and this was the worst council. Her Worship asked Cr Glucina to leave the meeting. Cr Glucina left the Chamber at 10:22am"

So am I just being mean and trying to get my own back on the Mayor?

Hell no. I'm just deeply worried that one day, Ms Shattock may cyberbully someone who is already in a frail state and that bullying could lead to a wholely undesired and potentially tragic outcome.

I am also worried that this district really does need better civic leadership than the current mayor and her supporting councilors can deliver.

For the sake of thoroughness, I have also filed a LGOIA request to find out who flew the drone in the council's video. I was told that this video was filmed and created entirely by staff and to the best of my knowledge, nobody on staff has the necessary CAA-recognised credentials to fly a drone in some of the locations shown (within 4Km of an airfield or helipad). Given how anti-drone the Mayor and her deputy have been over the years, I think it's time to make sure we aren't seeing more hypocrisy in action.

Stay tuned... this can only get better!

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