Mayor Wayne Brown snubs major New Zealand media organisations for Auckland Council update

Major media organisations in New Zealand have been snubbed by Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown who was giving an important council budget announcement on Thursday morning. 

Newshub was not a part of the guest list for an invitation-only speech Brown gave on his budget proposal to "Auckland business and residents".

"We invited a select few journalists from media outlets who we feel were best able to convey the mayor's message," the Mayor's press secretary, Josh Van Veen told Stuff

Newshub, TVNZ and Stuff were not invited to the announcement in downtown Auckland.

Stuff reports the updated budget proposal was emailed to Auckland councillors on Tuesday evening, who then spent time on Wednesday in confidential workshops discussing it.

Brown said only media who were "sensible" were invited to hear his plan, according to RNZ.

Stuff, TVNZ and Newshub eventually gained access to the meeting, but after Brown started giving his speech. 

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Unacceptable" - Chair of the Media Freedom Committee

Following Brown's decision to cherry-pick media organisations to attend the Auckland Council meeting, the Chair of the Media Freedom Committee (MFC), Richard Sutherland, wrote a letter to the Mayor criticising the decision.

In the letter, he said he had "deep concern" at the attempted exclusion of journalists from Thursday's budget presentation in Auckland.

"Today's events are troubling. The media plays a crucial role in informing the public and holding officials accountable. Denying access to journalists compromises the public's right to be informed," Sutherland said.

Sutherland said the fact that invitations were issued to selectively targeted specific journalists was wrong.

"It is imperative to ensure equal opportunities for all bone fide journalists to cover significant public events, irrespective of their perceived affiliations or perspectives," he said.

"To be blunt, it's unacceptable to cherry-pick journalists based on who you think will give you the easiest ride.

"Decisions made in the Auckland City budget process hold significant implications for all Aucklanders. Attempting to exclude journalists is an affront to the democratic process and an insult to voters."

In response, Brown's head of communications and government relations, Kate Gourdie, said the room had limited capacity which is why it was invitation only.

"It was not a press conference. A decision was made to invite a small handful of media," she said.

"The content was scheduled to be distributed via social media following the event.

"Staff and guests were disappointed with the conduct of some media who forced their way into the event and disrupted the Mayor's speech."

It comes after Brown proposed the full sale of council shares in the city's airport and a rate rise of 6.7 percent. 

Speaking to Newstalk ZB on Thursday morning before his announcement, Brown encouraged the city's 20 councillors to get behind the plan because the public doesn't "want any [rates] increase above inflation".

He said there was something in the plan for "everybody" but admitted the process was "bloody hard". 

"I'm not like the Government, I just can't print money - they can," he told Newstalk ZB.

"The Government don't have to consult on their Budget; they just roll it out, print money and there it is - it's all easy."  

He said the rates increase, if the airport shares weren't sold, would be "at least 3 percent".