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Auckland Council uses bullying tactics to silence Twitter critic

Auckland Council has used bullying tactics to try to silence a member of the public who criticised it on Twitter.

When Tara Sutherland – an infrastructure designer at Telecom – wrote a scathing tweet yesterday about Auckland's parking prices, the council's transport arm, Auckland Transport, complained to her employer.

Ms Sutherland's offending tweet read: "Screw you Auckland City ... your public transport is rubbish and in the space of three hours you triple parking prices!"

The tweet was accompanied by a photo of two parking tickets reflecting Ms Sutherland's gripe.

Two hours later, she tweeted that Auckland Council had made a complaint to her employer about the tweet.

In a tweet soon after an unidentified person from Auckland Transport replied, saying: "Sincere apologies. As moderator I'm mortified and we're dealing with it internally as it is in breach of our policy."

The wayward bureaucrat at Auckland Transport would have had to do some digging to find who Ms Sutherland's employer is, as it is not listed on her Twitter profile.

Mayor Len Brown would not front to explain why one of his citizens was bullied by a council bureaucrat, instead referring NBR ONLINE's inquiries to the council's bloated PR team.

Council communications manager Sharon Hunter says an internal investigation has been launched to work out how it occurred.

"Auckland Transport has an open approach to comments on social media and welcomes all feedback regarding our services and activities." Unmitigated bunkum.

The so-called "open approach" and feedback welcome failed in this case.

Which raises the question of how much more of this sort of nasty bullying is going on in Brown's Town?

Tell us your council bullying story.

callison@nbr.co.nz

More by Caleb Allison

Comments and questions
48

hey, hey, ho, ho
that Lenny Brown has got to go;

everybody now -
hey, hey, ho, ho
that Lenny Brown has got to go...

And what, replace him with the likes of Mr perk buster oops taker? Or even worse, Mr I forgot who gave me money?

Yep, Len's self-serving egotistical team has to go before Auckland ratepayers are bankrupted. See how long before they find out who my employer is.

How about the council actually focuses on serving the public [ratepayers] and listening rather than working out how they can stop people from complaining?

What a waste of ratepayers' money having the council monkey hunt Tara down. Prime candidate for sacking!

My two cents: I've had nothing but great experiences from Auckland Council - they've gone above and beyond to help me with things like parking infringements, buses and rubbish collection, even going so far as to make a special stop to pick up my recycling.

Says the PR person trying to limit this attack by the Auckland Council.

Relevance of this bouquet?

Had a laugh when I read that - I guess not everyone gets your wry sense of sarcasm.

Council uses bullying tactics - so what else is new?

Len's looney mob have made no secret of their hatred of cars - for the masses, but not for themselves. Can't wait for emergency services to use bicycles, that will work, NOT.

Or send the fire service by rail to fight your fires!

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise." - Voltaire

Auckland Transport are a loathsome organisation littered with bully boy arrogant twits.
The only other explanation is too many decisions made by many in their ranks who are suffering the effects of breathing fumes while pedalling to work on their bicycles.
Motorists - remember it's their mission in life to hate you.

Remember that they are led by those who have risen to a level that exceeds their incompetance.

I think you mean competence.

Want to see bully tactics from the council? Just wait till your next rates bill comes in... then your next water and waste water bill from Watercare.

They used to be combined together, but seperate them out, add a hefty increase to both, then claim rates only increased by a few percentage points. Combined, these two increases must be a huge percentage increase.

All for Leftie Len's train set or white water rafting stadium - to be built in a place where most of the parents can't afford to feed their own dependents, if we listen to what TV3 tells us. So for a prime example of bullying by red tape, look no further than Leftie Len and his undemocratic, self-appointed Maori councillors.

Auckland Transport are indeed a bunch of arrogant bullies.

They actually tried to take some of my property and have me lease it back off them!

Which is a good business model if you can get away with it.

And Sharon Hunter just utters platitudinous rubbish every time she opens her mouth.

Good job Telecom staff getting their own back. Telecom do the same thing to Twitter users who comment about them.

Exactly! Auckland Council might be an example of what happens when democracy is got rid of via amalgamation of several previous democracies, but what would Telecom know about customer service. Quite frankly, I feel lucky my internet is even working and will no doubt be faced with usual dogpile of a bill for glorified dialup speeds at broadband prices.

If Tara Sutherland parks illegally then she can expect to be ticketed. Her tweet could also be classed as bullying.

Read the tweet properly, she paid for parking twice in one day and got charges 3 x more the second time.

They are not parking fines for illegal parking. She did nothing wrong, Auckland Transport just didn't like her feedback and were stupid going to her boss over a personal matter.

Just a thought, is it not possible that her boss who follows her on twitter may have seen the tweet and thought that it was a bad reflection on the company/was unhappy she was tweeting at work and said to her "Auckland Council complained about this tweet" to scare her?

Not trying to defend Auckland Council - it just seems very weird that their Social Media Rep decided to do some digging (and risk their job) on Tara and gone to her employer over a pretty standard tweet...

Having seen how much of an obnoxious loud mouth this woman is, it wouldn't surprise me!

If you would like to turn article comments into personal insults, at least have the guts to sign your real name.

Her Tweet did not mention she worked for Telecom....read the WHOLE article. The council had to do some serious research to find out who her employer was.

Calm down anon - I did read the WHOLE article, hence why I said "do some digging" - read my WHOLE comment and you will see that.

If her email shows on Twitter, just search that through facebook or google and it will give a pretty good idea who she is.

Oh yeah, that's it. I can tell because they've made Auckland soooooooo bike friendly.

It's not Auckland Council doing the bullying but Auckland Transport. As a CCO it is almost totally independent of the council. (That's how Rodney set up the CCOs)

Um, not to nit pick but those aren't parking tickets, they're receipts.

Sad they have targeted her when I bet there's a lot of other people putting the same complaint on the web.

As one business owner who is already seething that my water rates have gone from $160pa to now almost $4000pa (and with almost zero waste water), today I heard a a story that had me absolutely frothing at the mouth. A contractor for the council informed me, that on instructions from the council, he had just just completed a job cleaning a dead hedgehog off the road. He informed me that they receive instructions from the council (on a regular basis) to carry out a variety of similar work. Each job requires one worker, one supervisor and an 8-10 tonne truck to attend . Now ladies and gentlemen, that is one very, very expensive dead hedgehog. We were both in a hurry, so I didn't get to ask him the cost of cremation.

While this tweet was seemingly by one errant staff member, I must record that having dealt with Auckland Transport (and its effective predecessor - Auckland City Council transport dept) for some years now on a range if issues, my experience has been an organisational culture that is arrogant, closed-minded, incompetent, inwardly focused.

They certainly have no customer service culture - despite there being a handful of good people within the organisation. A good CEO would concentrate first and foremost on instilling a responsive, customer service focused culture to this organisation. The rest of their challenges would be a breeze in comparison.

Good on ya Tara! More evidence that Auckland is a nuke test site in waiting!!!

Have you ever tried getting a response from Auckland Transport.
You have to fill in an on-line form and then wait 10 working days for a response.
I received the response (which was totally inadequate and didn't answer my question) rang the person listed on the reply and was told I would need to fill out the on-line form again with my queries and wait another ten days for a reply!!

Is this a customer serrvice organisation???

Bring back the old NSCC.

Got an actual response in three working days into the inquiry I had sent to AT. But, then again, had some help on the way. Look, the point being is customer service is some what to be desired.

She was spot on.

A donkey of average fitness could make better time than a car on the southern motorway.

Bullying? Complaining to her employer - is that bullying? That's like a staff member who said I was a bully as I wanted something done in a certain way .... professionally and efficiently. It's a word that gets often thrown around when people don't like what's happened. Am I bullied by IRD to pay tax? Re all the negative comments re public transport - go to Melbourne and see what decent public transport does for a city. In fact, go to any modern city. Most have moved their thinking on from the public transport is for communists. Alas, it seems many NBR readers who should know better haven't!

In the ACC lunch room, I have been warned not to dunk my wine biscuit in my cup of Milo in the presence of any supervisor. I feel bullied in being denied a simple pleasure during my 10-minute morning tea break. I consider myself an obedient team member, so I comply.

I smell a lawsuit! GO on!

She should have instagramed the Pic.

I'm not surprised she's irate, given the diabolical parking conditions in the city. Those parking wardens are literally on one's tail constantly, which is what they're meant to do, but when they cross the line and start scouring private parking lots to ticket they should be arrested.

Additionally, the inconsistency of clear signage telling us what the parking rules are need to be upgraded city-wide. An example of this was Grafton bridge when it was being used as a bus lane. I'd been driving over that bridge since I was a child. Who knew suddenly I wasn't allowed, too? And with one smallish obscured sign right at the busy entrance, who was even looking?

To add insult to injury, when I called the council to try to get off the $200+ fee, I was shut down rudely by the operator. So, that's another issue the council needs to address. Better customer service as well as some actual sympathy for someone in such a predicament. I would love to know how many tickets they issued for Grafton bridge, how many similar complaints they got, only to do absolutely nothing about making signage clearer. Laughing at their constituents all the way to the bank...

Oh, and here's another one. When I tried to book one of the council baches at Scandrett Park for the holidays, the guy on the phone (who was very polite) told me they get booked out on the first day they're advertised. He said he fields dozens of calls every day for the baches and has to tell everyone the same thing. I suggested they take the ad down once the property is rented, but it seemed to be beyond him.

Auckland Council living in the dark ages. Get with it grannies!

She parked in different zones with different tariffs. Those are prepaid parking tickets so she knew what the prices were for the zone. She accepted what those prices were by paying for it - could have just driven away.

That's just what happens when you want a premium spot in the CBD - that's just life really.

I suspect the tariff actually changed between parking and that Tara is referring to the parking in and around Telecom Place on Victoria st. It has always been around $1/hr there but once all the new signage when up I believe the tariff changed (in the last few days).

Sanitarium did exactly the same thing to me - used my info. But at least Aucks Council apologised.

Is this about Auckland Transport or Air New Zealand?

Move out of stinking Auckland. Vote with your feet.

A council worker treating a ratepayer with contempt? WHAT are the odds? *rolls eyes*