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A moment of silence please for the death of free speech

Wendy Geus: Regional Council Chair sacked for having the wrong opinion on Three Waters policy.
Wendy Geus
Contributing Writer
May 11th, 2022

OPINION: Russell Rimmington, former Chair of Waikato Regional Council, is the first major casualty of the Government’s radical He Puapua policy. He was sacked for having an opinion, contrary to the politically correct view of the day.  When discussing the polarising Three Waters policy earlier this year, he dared to express concerns over: 

“Māori gaining control of water and that farmers and horticulturalists could be at their “beck and call”.

Some of his colleagues stated that the comment was ‘racist’. Really? Isn’t giving one race power over another racist? 

No one dares state that, or contradict ‘The Word’: the (unspoken) established belief brought about by enforced silence through fear of being politically incorrect and out of step with the (so called) mainstream New Zealand view; this includes the intelligentsia, the Labour Government and in particular their Māori caucus, and of course most of the compliant media to anyone opposing He Puapua.  

When Rimmington’s  ‘offensive’ comments came out there was no discussion in the media as they accepted what he had said was indeed "racist". 

For Rimmington it was a case of sorry, not sorry. He initially apologised and almost grovelled (and I cringed) and agreed to go on a course to learn to eradicate his own point of view and express the politically correct view, (or be called a racist, presumably). Then he later doubled down on his point of view which led to his demise. 

This is the sort of thing that goes on in autocratic countries, and is rearing its ugly head here.

No doubt the PM would regard his comments as hate speech; Rimmington was criticizing her beloved He Puapua. If it differs from her own view and her radical policies she happens to be peddling at the moment, it must be… hate speech, racist or disinformation. 

In the United States the Democrats have quickly established a Ministry of Disinformation, (renamed Ministry of Truth by the Republicans) in fear of free speech roaming wild and free since Elon took over Twitter.

Rimmington, outspoken and polarising, hasn’t helped his cause with his doubling down on the Te Huia slow train to Auckland which is hemorrhaging money and his opposition to the Sleepyhead housing development, which has now gone ahead; giving his opponents plenty of ammunition to muddy the waters saying it never was just about Three Waters. 

Of course it is. It is an emotional and political decision. He has been bullied out of his job, by 8 votes to 6 for daring to oppose the prescribed views.  

A number of councillors spoke against ousting Rimmington with Councillor Quayle, who replaces Rimmington as Chair, actually voting against his removal. 

“What is the crime that Russ is guilty of?” asked another councillor.

The answer: Having the wrong point of view which differs from the politically accepted one of the day… And daring to express it! 

However, Russ Rimmington is speaking for many of his constituents and the majority of New Zealanders and his courage will be rewarded when next year an (almost certain) new National/Act government will reverse Three Waters, not due to start until 2024 in any case.  

He wasn’t sacked for the slow train to Auckland, debacle though it is; but for having the wrong point of view over Three Waters. He was in effect bullied out of his job. 

So, a moment of silence please for the official death of free speech in New Zealand.

Wendy Geus is a former speechwriter and generalist communications advisor in local government. She now writes for the pure love of it.