Head of operations of anti-vax group Voices For Freedom representing New Plymouth District Council


Tane Webster, National Operations Manager for Voices For Freedom, is running for New Plymouth District Council.

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Tane Webster, National Operations Manager for Voices For Freedom, is running for New Plymouth District Council.

The chief operating officer of anti-vaccination and anti-mandate group Voices For Freedom is seeking a seat on New Plymouth District Council.

Tane Webster was among the list of candidates released by the council on Wednesday.

Voices For Freedom (VFF) campaigned for supporters to hold decision-making positions, but told candidates to hide their affiliations – urging voters to warn voters to research candidates thoroughly before voting.

VFF is among the individuals and groups linked to fake news and violent rhetoric, the subject of the trick circuit Fire and Fury documentary. VFF played a leading role in the occupation of the Parliament grounds which ended in a riot on March 2.

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The organization is led by Libby Johnson, Alia Bland and Taranaki-born Claire Deeks, a former lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for parliament in 2020.

“We can really influence the results, throw our weight behind it,” Webster told supporters during a webinar about applying to local bodies.

Claire Deeks grew up in Taranaki in Oakura City.

Claire Deeks grew up in Taranaki in Oakura City.

Webster did not respond to questions emailed to him, his only contact information made public on a slate of NPDC candidates.

He has already made several deputations to council, including one when he was asked to stop by New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom due to the charges he had made.

Other candidates for New Plymouth District Council who took part in the Parliament protest have distanced themselves from any involvement with VFF.

Mayoral and council candidate Murray Chong said he “wouldn’t get a bar of it” and went to demonstrate in Wellington against government mandates.

“I attended some rallies where they went, but it’s not for the same reasons,” he said.

Incumbent councilor Anneka Carlson, who is seeking a second term and also participated in protests with VFF members with Chong, said she had no affiliation with them.

However, she supported the group’s position on vaccination mandates but kept herself independent of any similar organization.

First-time candidate Monica Hylton was also present at the Parliament protest, but made it clear that it was only to ‘listen to people’ and not to ‘promote or encourage any organization or form of anti-social and extremist views and behavior” despite having no association with VFF.

“I’m not against anything, I’m pro-choice, and I understand the importance of maintaining an honest and diverse democracy,” she said.

Council candidate Caro McKee accused the NPDC of being corrupt.

CHARLOTTE CURD/ /Fairfax NZ/Stuff

Council candidate Caro McKee accused the NPDC of being corrupt.

Another candidate not to provide contact details on the candidate list is Caro McKee who took to social media to accuse the NPDC of being corrupt.

“Wake up in New Plymouth you are being scammed, lied to and raped with your rates,” she said in a post.

McKee was also part of the protest in Wellington and has been a staunch critic of vaccination mandates.

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