Invercargill City Council prayer?
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From: Alex Harris
Dear Invercargill City Council,
As you may have read recently, the Whanganui District Council abolished its opening prayer after a complaint was made to the Human Rights Commission. I'm interested in learning how widespread this practice is, so I'd like to request the following information under the LGOIMA:
* Does the Council open its meetings with a prayer?
* If the answer to the above is "yes", then I'd like a copy of that prayer (or examples, if more than one is used), when the practice was first established, whether the council has considered abolishing it in the wake of the Whanganui decision, and any advice the council may hold on the prayer's compatibility with both the Human Rights Act 1993 and Bill of Rights Act 1990.
I would prefer to receive an electronic response. Queries about this request will be automatically forwarded to me by the fyi.org.nz website.
From: FYI Requests
Thank you for your inquiry.
The Invercargill City Council opens its Council Meetings with the Council
prayer. This is only done at meetings of the full Council, not at
Committee Meetings. It is led by His Worship the Mayor.
Grant to us all needed guidance, wisdom and judgment as we face the tasks
before us: and enable us, now and always, worthily to discharge the sacred
trust placed by the people in our hands.
The Invercargill City Council has not discussed this in the wake of the
However, ten years ago, when North Shore decided to discontinue its prayer
before meetings, Mr Shadbolt was contacted and asked to do the same. He
took the matter to Council and advised that he was happy for it to
continue - and Council agreed with him.
Mr Shadbolt has written about it recently in a column in a local community
newspaper. Here is the text of that column:
Southland Express, March 29, 2012
The CUE TV fans within our community will have noticed some rather obscure
messages from Tom Conroy and myself over the last week. These are known in
television land as “teasers”. They are designed to arouse your curiosity
but not actually give you any specific information about a forthcoming
The big announcement (drum roll … ) will be made on Monday and I’m hoping
it will raise money for charity and most of all be a lot of fun.
Local Government has received a lot of flak lately over debt and rate
increases and because of some monumental disasters such as Hamilton’s V8s
burnout and Auckland’s David Beckham meltdown, we are all tarred with the
same brush and make an easy target.
In previous columns I’ve written about Central Government catastrophes
such as leaky homes, but leaky homes is a boring, irrelevant issue in
Southland because we hardly have any.
I was therefore delighted to stumble across Bill Ralston’s article in the
New Zealand Listener which put Central Government expenditure under the
microscope. The case he focussed on was the $345,000 grant made to
reproductive ecologist Dr Sheri Johnston of Otago University. Her task was
to examine 700 tiny striped zebrafish so she could work out why beautiful
young women were often attracted to crusty old men. To the average
non-scientific Joe Blogs the answer is obvious.
While young men are far sexier and exciting, older men have fatter
wallets. It’s difficult to work out how such a theory could be proven
unless the older zebrafish swim around the aquarium with wads of cash
tucked under their gills.
Surely it would be far more fiscally efficient to study human examples.
Wendy Deng, in her mid 40s, is married to multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch
who is 81. I’m sure they would help clarify the issue for far less than
The only controversy in Local Government this month besides Dr Nick Smith
was the abolition of the Lord’s Prayer in Wanganui. A High Court Judge in
Britain has ruled that they are not lawful, so Councillor Clive Solomon,
who has a long history of litigation, threatened to take the Council to
court if the prayer was not abolished.
About 50% of Councils in New Zealand no longer have a Council prayer and
while I’m neither a devout Christian nor a paragon of virtue; I’m proud
that our Council has maintained this tradition. I see our Council prayer
as a reflective moment before the cut and thrust of political debate
begins. It’s true that we pray for God to “grant us all the needed
guidance, wisdom, and judgement as we face the tasks before us” but that
doesn’t mean we ignore our secular duty to build good roads and maintain
our water reticulation system.
It’s more about humility. We are humble enough to recognise we need all
the help we can get.