No work, no meet­ing

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Janie Smith and Me­lanie Ver­ran

NEW ZEALAND’S largest coun­cil has can­celled its monthly meet­ing be­cause it has noth­ing to talk about.

The Auck­land City Coun­cil, which pro­vides ser­vices to more than 400,000 res­i­dents and ratepay­ers, this week scrapped its July full coun­cil meet­ing, sched­uled for to­mor­row. In an email to me­dia, a democ­racy co­or­di­na­tor said the meet­ing had been can­celled “due to a lack of busi­ness.”

The move has sur­prised the re­gion’s other may­ors, who say it’s un­usual such a big coun­cil would have noth­ing to dis­cuss or no de­ci­sions to make.

Waitakere city mayor Bob Har­vey says in his 18 years in the role, he has never heard of a coun­cil meet­ing be­ing can­celled be­cause of a lack of busi­ness.

“I’m not crit­i­cal of it. I find it be­wil­der­ing that they have run out of busi­ness.”

Manukau city mayor Len Brown hasn’t had a meet­ing can­celled dur­ing his term in of­fice, and North Shore city mayor An­drew Wil­liams says his coun­cil has never pulled the plug on a meet­ing ei­ther.

Mr Wil­liams said the Auck­land coun­cil is “partly po­lit­i­cal” and most of its busi­ness is done out­side of meet­ings.

“You could de­scribe the meet­ings as ir­rel­e­vant,” he says.

Mr Wil­liams says the move might be a bad omen for the pro­posed su­percity.

“Coun­cil­lors on the North Shore are in­de­pen­dently elected and they are not part of fac­tions. We de­bate is­sues on their mer­its.”

But deputy mayor David Hay says there is some busi­ness to dis­cuss, but the coun­cil de­cided it wasn’t worth hav­ing a meet­ing.

“I ini­ti­ated it. We or­gan­ise our sched­ule so we have few com­mit­tee meet­ings in July.”

He says a lot of peo­ple take their hol­i­days to es­cape win­ter and coun­cil meet­ings are also waived in Jan­uary.

“It doesn’t mean there’s noth­ing hap­pen­ing,” he says.

Mayor John Banks says the coun­cil doesn’t hold meet­ings for the sake of it and doesn’t want to waste ratepay­ers’ money “navel­gaz­ing” when there’s noth­ing to talk about.

He says there is “noth­ing of any great sub­stance” to dis­cuss and that “the im­por­tant busi­ness of Auck­land city rolls on”.

Mr Banks says there have been about five or six meet­ings can­celled in this term of coun­cil.

“Some of my col­leagues will want to have meet­ings on a very reg­u­lar ba­sis be­cause they get paid more money. I’m not keen on pay­ing any­one for meet­ings that are not nec­es­sary.”

Coun­cil­lor Cathy Casey, who has been in lo­cal gov­ern­ment for 15 years, says she was sur­prised to be no­tifi of the can­cel­la­tion.

“Never in my ex­pe­ri­ence have I had a coun­cil meet­ing can­celled due to a lack of busi­ness. I would have thought there would be plenty.”

She says usu­ally com­mit­tee de­ci­sions would have to be rat­i­fied by the full coun­cil but there has only been one com­mit­tee meet­ing this month.

“Auck­land city is about to amal­ga­mate in 16 months’ time and they haven’t got enough busi­ness to have a round the ta­ble dis­cus­sion.”

Auck­land city coun­cil­lor Ken Bag­u­ley says: “There’s noth­ing to do and that’s the is­sue. The agenda is so light it was called off.

“It’s a month when a lot of the coun­cil­lors are free to do other things.”

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