Committee call ‘ground-breaking’

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Moving up a level...Gore district councillors, including Glenys Dickson who attended the meeting via video link, passed a recommendation from chief executive Steve Parry at an emergency council meeting on Monday to establish an emergency committee comprising the mayor and all the councillors, who will meet to make key decisions for the council during the Covid-19 level 4 alert period. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

A “ground-breaking” decision has been made to appoint all Gore district councillors to an emergency committee for the duration of the Covid-19 level 4 alert period.

Councillors agreed to the recommendation, put forward by chief executive Steve Parry at an emergency meeting on Monday.

Usually, an emergency committee of several councillors is appointed before the Christmas break to be available to deal with any issues which come up during the period, as many of the councillors are on holiday.

This is the first time all councillors have been appointed to an emergency committee.

We still need to have a bedrock minimum of two elected members physically present, including the chair, to enable legally binding decisions to be made.

In a memo to the meeting, Mr Parry said with the country moving to Covid-19 level 4 alert status the ability of the council to meet as usual would be affected.

It was likely the council would be forced to meet via video link, he said.

While the Local Government Act 2002 did allow elected members to take part in meetings via video link, those doing so were not able to be counted as part of the quorum required for meetings.

“In the case of the Gore District Council, a quorum consists of six members,” Mr Parry said.

However, the quorum for a committee was only two members, which was why he was recommending forming an emergency committee.

“Such an approach will both overcome the more onerous quorum requirements for the full council but also maximise involvement of the councillors and not place the committee in jeopardy of not being able to operate should some elected members be unavailable.”

The committee “would have the power to act and an obligation [to] report its decisions to the full council in due course”.

Speaking to the recommendation, Mr Parry said it was possible most of the councillors could take part in meetings via video link and vote on matters discussed.

“We still need to have a bedrock minimum of two elected members physically present, including the chair, to enable legally binding decisions to be made,” Mr Parry said.

The emergency committee would only be operational for as long as the level 4 alert status applied to the district, he said.

The minutes of the meeting would be made available to the public as usual, unless a matter was discussed in committee, he said.

Councillor Bret Highsted asked if councillors were encouraged to stay away and attend via video link.

Mr Hicks said attending by video link was an option for councillors, depending on their personal circumstances.

“I’d prefer you to come in as long as it’s safe.

“If it’s unsafe or even risky then I would suggest best not to,” Mr Hicks said.

After councillors approved the motion, Mr Hick said “it is a ground-breaking decision that we’ve made here”.

“It is going to be very interesting to see how these next few weeks play out.”