No work, no meeting
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.”