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Anti-Government conspiracy theorists stage Greymouth hijack

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The Greymouth public meeting for the draft Te Tai o Poutini Plan, before the walkout last night. Photo / Laura Mills/Greymouth Star

Brendon McMahon, Local Democracy Reporter

Conspiracy theorists tried to hijack a public consultation meeting yesterday in Greymouth for the draft Te Tai o Poutini Plan (TTPP).

Grey district councillor and an alternate member of the TTPP committee Peter Haddock said about 10 people “tried to hijack” the meeting of about 40 by objecting and voicing “anti-government, anti-legislation” sentiment.

However, they were managed by the meeting conveners and once the protest group made their orchestrated walkout, “then we had a good meeting”.

“I don’t know where they’ve come from – I didn’t recognise any of them from my life living here,” Haddock said.

The same group had disrupted the Hokitika public meeting yesterday, again ending with a staged walkout.

Cr Anton Becker, a member of the TTPP, said there had been escalating tensions over the consultation period at each successive meeting, with Greymouth the worst.

It had progressed from a few hecklers from the same group at the Runanga consultation meeting early last month.

“The tension seems to be building each one,” Becker said.

Greymouth mayor Tania Gibson, also on the TTPP, described the protesters as an “angry radical group”.

“They just stood up and kept shouting. It was a bit heated.”

However, the planners kept their cool despite the pressure and did a good job of addressing genuine questions in the little time left, she said.

Becker said the Grey Valley meeting at Nelson Creek on Monday had been “constructive” and without protest.

It was everyone’s right to voice their concerns but he urged people with concerns to make a submission.

“They’ve got to submit what they support – there’s a lot of good things in the plan,” he said.

The TTPP is the combined district plan for Grey, Buller and Westland. The round of TTPP public meetings wraps up this week, with final meetings this afternoon in Punakaiki and Barrytown, and Westport tomorrow night.

Haddock said the genuine concerns raised last night were able to be addressed by TTPP members present.

This included mapping issues for sites and areas of Maori significance on private property, and why there was a TTPP in the first place.

This also reiterated why a range of public submissions was integral to the process.

“It was because people are thinking it’s something forced on them by the Government, but we explained how it all came about. The plan is really good, but it’s got to be tweaked.”

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