Throughout New Zealand, local body elections for 2019 are currently taking place.
In Tauranga, many people are taking to community pages on Facebook to discuss and debate their thoughts and opinions about the candidates running in the hope to make it on to council.
But within those debates and discussions there is also a lot of hate. Hate towards different candidates but also towards other members in the community.
The comment sections on Facebook posts are full of different opinions and views and often screenshots of what hopeful candidates have said in the past. But is the hate and nasty comment necessary?
Councillor Leanne Brown announced recently one of the reasons why she wasn’t standing during this election was partly because of the hate and abusive she has received.
Only just last weekend was Councillor Steve Morris’ car damaged.
Candidates campaign signs are also getting vandalised, with knifes being found in some and faces being completely cut out.
Tauranga City Council’s deputy electoral officer Robyn Garrett says ‘to ensure that the elections is conducted fairly, our policy is to remain completely neutral and to let democracy take its course’.
“This means that we do not support or oppose any candidates, and nor do we comment on the way they are conducting their campaigns.
“It is up to the people of Tauranga to decide who they want to represent their views on council. If people have strong views about any particular candidates, we urge them to vote accordingly.”
A police spokesperson says, in New Zealand, what is commonly referred to as a hate crime is an offence that has been reported to, or found by police, that is motivated by hostility, by one person or group targeting another person or group on the basis of a common characteristic i.e. their race, colour, nationality, religion, gender, identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability; and
• The hostility is because of the common characteristic; and
• The offender believed that the victim has that characteristic.
“The hostility is called an aggravating factor and under Section 9 (1) (h) of the Sentencing Act 2002, the court must take the aggravating factor into account when considering sentencing. Police must also take this aggravating factor into consideration when investigating and determining the appropriate course of action.
“Because Hate Crime is not an offence in and of itself, it is therefore not recorded as a specific offence type by police. However where staff believe a crime is motivated by hatred, they have the ability to note this.
“Police takes hate crime seriously. We want to encourage all members of our communities to be alert to, and report, all instances of hate crime to police.”