Disability Issues Minister Louise Upston fires back over councillor’s use of ‘derogatory terms’

Disability Issues Minister Louise Upston has rebuked a Hamilton City councillor for comments described as ableist slurs in an expletive-laden rant to a neighbouring council.

First-term councillor Andrew Bydder also insulted Waipā mayor Susan O’Regan in the submission on the placement of a third bridge in Cambridge.

Bydder, an architectural designer who lives in Cambridge, told O’Regan to “Get off your fat arse and do your job” and opened the feedback with: “What the f**k are you r******d s*****c c**ts doing?”.

Hamilton City councillor Andrew Bydder

After RNZ revealed the comments on Tuesday nine formal complaints were made about Bydder’s conduct with one from Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate on Friday prompting a legal review to determine if an investigation should be opened.

Upston, who is also the MP for Taupō which takes in Cambridge, waded into the furore on Wednesday, saying she would encourage Bydder and anyone who uses language like he did to reflect on how it shapes perceptions of disabled people and disabilities.

“Words matter, and using derogatory terms that are vulgar and disrespectful to the disability community just to get attention is not acceptable.”

Vision Impaired NZ national executive director for parents Dr Rebekah Graham called on Bydder to publicly apologise and give a sizeable donation to Cerebral Palsy NZ and IHC.

“The word ‘r******d’ is an offensive ableist slur that discriminates against the intellectually/learning disabled community.

“It has long since been discarded from use and is widely considered pejorative. It is considered by some in the community to be hate speech.”

She said the word “s*****c” was used by Bydder in a derogatory manner because it was intentionally used to offend people.

“This word is an old-fashioned and offensive name for a person who has cerebral palsy.”

Bydder, a former architect, told RNZ he “apologised to the r******d people for associating them with councillors”.

Asked if he could see that using the same outdated word to apologise to the intellectually disabled community could be upsetting to them, Bydder conceded he could.

But he said instead of focusing on “rude words” the media should be looking at what prompted him to write the submission, which he did several months ago.

Bydder said Waipā District Council was proposing to site a third bridge in Cambridge across four streets without sufficient consultation and he claimed it destroyed the property value of 100 houses in four usually quiet, leafy streets.

“Context is everything so I am not apologising for what I did.”

O’Regan apologised for “mis-steps” by the council during the earlier consultation but said it did not excuse Bydder’s comments, which she described as “appalling”.

Upston said elected representatives and council staff were real people who often dealt with very challenging issues.

“I understand tensions are high in the community over the placement of Cambridge’s third bridge, but those taking part in the debate need to remain respectful and focus on the issue.”

Past history

Bydder has form for insulting and derogatory comments to council staff including in Hamilton before he was elected, and at Matamata-Piako District, where mayor Adrienne Wilcock said the council’s chief executive made a complaint to the Registered Architects Board.

Hamilton City Councillor Louise Hutt.

Hamilton west ward councillor Louise Hutt said while she could not comment specifically on Bydder’s submission because his conduct might need to be assessed by council, as an elected member she had experienced verbal abuse from members of the public and it was unsettling.

“The level of abuse that we face is death by a thousand cuts,” Hutt said.

“We want people to run for office. We want to have lots of good candidates to choose from rather than seeing people choose not to stand or our community not have a lot of choices in who they elect because people have been abused out of the role.

“I think if you limit who can hold this office to people who can put up with unending amounts of abuse and threats and having their safety questioned, that’s not a lot of people who are going to put their hand up for that.

“And so I often think about how all of the little things add up.”

It is expected lawyers will advise the council on Thursday whether Southgate’s complaint warranted further investigation.

Penalties for breaching the Code of Conduct include the request for an apology, censure, a vote of no confidence, removal of council-funded privileges or appointments, restricted entry to council offices, limited dealings with council staff, suspension or removal from committees, and inviting the member to consider resigning.

Bydder said he was not concerned for his job as a councillor.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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