Meeting protocols to be discussed

Gore district councillors will take part in a public workshop to discuss ideas as to how meetings open to the public will be managed.
The recommendation was passed at last week’s council meeting after a report written by chief executive Stephen Parry was discussed.
In his report, Mr Parry summarised the findings of chief ombudsman Peter Boshier, who has recently released the findings of his investigation into workshop and meeting practices of eight local authorities.
In his report Mr Parry noted aspects of the report the council could be satisfied with, including the live-streaming of council and committee meetings.
He also listed areas where the council’s practices could change, based on the ombudsman’s report.
Holding workshops in a public setting with live-streaming, unless there were good reasons according to the Local Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act for the meeting to be held in committee, was one.
The use of ‘‘plain English’’ to state why an item needed to be discussed in-committee and making workshop notes available were other areas councillors could consider change.
Acting mayor Keith Hovell said while it was important councillors were accountable and transparent, there were times when information should be withheld ‘‘particularly when it comes to financial matters’’.
If the council was going to be more open, he believed the media had an important role.
‘‘If councillors are going to be openly making suggestions, it is important they are reported as ideas that are being floated, rather than a view that is being put forward that the council should be doing so.’’
He was happy to work with reporters to come up with a format so the public knew what was being reported came from an ‘‘ideas meeting’’ and a decision had yet to be made about an issue.
He noted the Waimakariri district had a policy that outlined how briefings, committee meetings and workshops were conducted.
‘‘It is highly desirable that we have a policy.’’
Mr Parry said a workshop to consider a policy as to how meetings including workshops would be organised was a good idea.
‘‘You want to get off on the right note by having it in a public setting.
‘‘There is a lot of intrigue about workshops but having been around the traps a while, I don’t know whether they are going to be a bestseller in terms of if you are live-streaming and asking people to tune in.
‘‘By their nature they are actually exploratory conversations or working through some technical matter before you can get to shape up some options that will eventually find their way into a report to come to a public agenda.’’
Cr Bronwyn Reid suggested the workshop was held in the new year.
Council communications and customer support general manager Sonia Gerken said since the election, there had been 12 workshops about the 2024-34 longterm plan, two about the 2023-24 annual plan, one on the district plan review and others about governance committees, flood protection, and health localities, which made 18 altogether.
‘‘Workshops are informal and not open to the public.’’