It won't last, say Isocnz old guard

Some highly-placed members of the Internet Society of New Zealand predict the new make-up of the ruling council, voted in last Friday, will not last long.

Some highly-placed members of the Internet Society of New Zealand predict the new make-up of the ruling council, voted in last Friday, will not last long.

Ten members opposed to the current direction of the Council were elected onto the council at the end of a marathon six-hour AGM, which finished just before midnight.

The vote was heavily influenced by the proxy votes held by several of the discontented members. Former councillor David Farrar held 55 proxy votes and Peter Mott, managing director of ISP had 27, while other proxy-holding members with similar points of view included Roger De Salis (8), Lin Nah (8) David Harpham (8) Robert Gray (8) and Simon Blake (5).

Many of the proxies came from new members who had joined the society specifically to back motions for change and to vote for pro-change councillors. The society gained 149 members in the month before the AGM, most of these in the final week - but not all apparently subscribed to the rebel cause.

Councillor Elizabeth Dengate Thrush (who failed to be re-elected at the AGM) came to the meeting with 24 proxies, all with recent membership numbers and some apparently from family members. Along with her husband, council chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, who held 16 proxy votes, she opposed motions calling for change.

Council member Professor Howard Frederick of Unitec, said after the vote that now the technique had been used once it could potentially be used again.

"In two years' time, we might find ourselves with an Internet Society dominated by, say, telecommunications companies. Any lobby that feels it's not getting sufficient representation of its point of view will be able to engineer large numbers onto the council using the same technique," Frederick says.

Current Isocnz council rules limit the number of employees of any company able to be elected to council.

Farrar describes Frederick's comments as "akin to Parliament complaining that it has been captured by the voters … What Professor Frederick misses is that this was not a lobby on behalf of ISPs only - it was also a lobby on behalf of actual Internet users who were appalled at the performance of Isocnz to date."

Farrar says he has no ties to any ISP, except as a customer, and says the complaint is bizarre given that "the main goal of Isocnz is to be 'the principal organisation representing the interests of Internet users and Internet Service Providers in New Zealand' and yet somebody complains when this actually happens."

Independent consultant Rob Isaac says, who joined Isocnz to vote for change, says that while some people might find last week's event "in some way dangerous or subversive, the simple fact is that joining Isocnz is the only outlet that all of the people unhappy with Domainz or baffled by the lack of useful work done by Isocnz have for their frustrations."

Others at the meeting were sceptical about the new council members' perseverance. "Once they realise how much work is involved in being a Councillor, we will see some of them dropping out," said one with experience of serving on council.

"Having served on a [Isocnz] council where some councillors contributed to less than 1% of the e-mail discussions and missed almost every meeting held, for someone to complain about the perseverance of brand new councillors is insulting," says Farrar.

The council chairman, having opposed the moves for change all the way through the AGM, was more conciliatory this week.

"We've lost a lot of experience on council, and I'm sad to see that go," says chairman Peter Dengate Thrush. "But the new councillors look like bringing talent and enthusiasm, which may go some way to compensating for that."

The chief plank of the new council members is a change in the status of Domainz, the Isocnz company which provides domain name registry services for the whole .nz domain. The major proposal is that Domainz's registry database function be removed and it act only as a registrar, providing commercial domain name services alongside other companies sharing access to the same registry. This push for change results from considerable discontent with Domainz's performance and its relationship with Isocnz.

This motion was passed at the meeting as was a vote of no confidence in Domainz's board of directors.

Nine existing councillors' terms of office run to the 2001 AGM, including that of Peter Dengate Thrush. The next Council meeting will elect a chairman. This meeting was scheduled to be held this Friday, but may well be adjourned to give the new councillors fair notice, Dengate Thrush says..

He is willing to stand again for the chair, "if Council thinks I have something to contribute. Without going on the campaign trail, I suggest that in a period of such dramatic change, some continuity and stability might be useful."

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