A leaflet has appeared in mailboxes around Central Otago in recent weeks stoking fear with conspiracy theories and half-truths. Julie Asher examines the claims.

Anonymous flyers are easy to drop into the recycling but what lies behind their claims?

The latest flyer circulated in Central Otago claimed the Central Otago District Council had signed up for Smart Cities through the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) and consequently residents would need a permit to travel more than 15 minutes from their home.

ALGIM offers professional development for people working in councils around the country in IT, customer and data services.

The Smart City concept was coined by computer companies IBM and Cisco in 2007. Various definitions exist but all focus on the role of technology in making cities more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable, while improving the quality of life for residents.

The 15-minute idea comes from an urban planning concept that most daily necessities and services, such as work, shopping, education, healthcare, and leisure could be easily reached by a 15-minute walk or bike ride from any point in the city.

Central Otago District Council group manager — community vision Dylan Rushbrook said the council was not part of the Smart City council as the flyer claimed.

One of the images in the flyer claimed to be from a book by World Economic Forum chief executive officer Klaus Schwab alleging Covid was part of a plan to reduce the world’s population.

However, international agency Associated Press found the words were from a book promoting conspiracy theories The Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman, who incorrectly attributed the words to author H.G. Wells.

The United States Holocaust Museum said the offensive words were from Nazi propaganda advocating the murder of disabled people.

Another concern raised in the flyer ‘‘what is being introduced to our schools’’ involved the United Nations sustainable development goals.

The question linked to the Stop World Control website, which says it ‘‘warns humanity about the agenda for world domination’’ without being clear about who wanted to dominate the world.

It says there was apanel of international lawyers, top level experts and renowned scientists who presented evidence before a grand jury that the Covid pandemic was a criminal operation, with the purpose of installing a world dictatorship. Again, the identity of the dictator was not evident.

Grand juries are part of the legal system in just two countries: the United States and Liberia. However, it seemed the grand jury referred to on the website may, in fact, be everyone in the world.

One of the ‘‘attorneys at law’’ in the experts list was New Zealander Claire Deeks, one of the founders of Voices for Freedom and Reality Check Radio.

While Deeks has law degrees, she has not worked asa lawyer since 2016.

Before founding VFF in December 2020, with knitting pattern designer Libby Jonson and crochet designer Alia Bland, Deeks was a full-time food blogger.

She stood for Advance NZ at third on its party list at the last general election in 2020.

The party got 1% of the votes, well below the 5% required to get a seat in parliament.

Conspiracy theories have a long history dating back to Roman times. University of Kent psychology professor Karen Douglas studies the psychology of conspiracy theories.They tended to emerge when people wanted to make sense of what was happening around them, particularly in times of crisis, when people felt worried and threatened, Prof Douglas said.

A journalist’s training taught them to look for the source of information. When scaremongering information arrived uninvited and anonymously one could only wonder why no-one was willing to put their name to it.