Coun­cil­lor to ad­vo­cate for live stream­ing

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ELENA MCPHEE

Live stream­ing coun­cil meet­ings to boost en­gage­ment with the public will be raised dur­ing the Ti­maru Dis­trict Coun­cil’s long term plan process.

How­ever, cau­tion has been urged by a fel­low coun­cil, which says greater trans­parency means coun­cil­lors will have to be care­ful.

The idea of live stream­ing the meet­ings was broached last year by then-coun­cil­lor Tracy Tier­ney and coun­cil­lor Sally Parker, with Parker say­ing she was go­ing to put it be­fore her col­leagues again dur­ing the long-term plan process later this year.

The cost - and whether rate- pay­ers were will­ing to pay for it - was some­thing that had to be dis­cussed, Parker said.

Coun­cil com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Stephen Do­ran con­firmed the coun­cil ba­si­cally sup­ported the idea of live stream­ing.

‘‘As it would in­volve a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment of ratepayer funds in re­plac­ing cur­rent equip­ment as well as on­go­ing costs, we would have to prop­erly gauge the public ap­petite and there­fore value of pro­vid­ing a ser­vice such as this.

‘‘In the in­terim we con­tinue to en­sure that our coun­cil and com­mit­tee meet­ings are well ad­ver­tised and open to the public.’’

The idea has at­tracted some crit­i­cism from coun­cil­lor Peter Burt, who said while he would sup- port it if it had public sup­port, it still had the po­ten­tial to ‘‘stymie’’ de­bate.

Burt said on Thurs­day film­ing a meet­ing would al­ways have an im­pact on de­bate - in par­tic­u­lar when it came to is­sues which were po­lar­is­ing to the com­mu­nity, mean­ing peo­ple might not speak as openly as they other­wise would.

‘‘Peo­ple are go­ing to be a bit more cir­cum­spect.’’

Dunedin City Coun­cil com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing man­ager Graham McKer­racher said what was be­ing recorded was open to the public any­way, and there were usu­ally no prob­lems- but coun­cil­lors had to be care­ful what they said to one an­other, with ‘‘per­sonal at­tacks’’ best avoided.

The Dunedin City Coun­cil has live streamed coun­cil meet­ings for sev­eral years.

While defam­a­tory state­ments were al­ways un­ac­cept­able, when they were broad­cast to the public the con­se­quences could be worse, McKer­racher said.

Hav­ing a time de­lay was a good idea, so any in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­marks could be edited out.

‘‘Coun­cil­lors have to be more dis­ci­plined, I think, so they don’t make any defam­a­tory re­marks about each other. Coun­cil­lors don’t have par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege.

‘‘[They] have to be cog­nisant of how they be­have.’’

When film­ing was first in­tro­duced to the Dunedin City Coun­cil, the coun­cil­lors be­came more po­lite, McKer­racher said.

How­ever at elec­tion time, lo­cal body politi­cians had a habit of be­com­ing more ‘‘vo­cif­er­ous’’.

Burt said he did not think per­sonal at­tacks would be a prob­lem in Ti­maru, but coun­cil­lors would have to watch their ‘‘ban­ter’’.

The crux of the is­sue was how widely the meet­ings would be viewed. A lot of the com­mit­tee meet­ings were just ‘‘de­tail around the day-to-day stuff’’ which peo­ple po­ten­tially might not find in­ter­est­ing.

Other coun­cils around the coun­try live stream their meet­ings, in­clud­ing the Taupo Dis­trict Coun­cil, which started in 2010, and the Christchurch City Coun­cil, which be­gan live stream­ing them in 2013.

Coun­cil­lor Steve Wills said he sup­ported the idea, as it was ‘‘an open public fo­rum any­way’’ and coun­cil­lor Paddy O’Reilly said he sup­ported the idea be­cause it would give the wider com­mu­nity in­sight about how the coun­cil worked.

‘‘Peo­ple need to know what’s go­ing on, if they so wish.’’

He did not think if would make much dif­fer­ence to the things the coun­cil­lors dis­cussed, but thought they might have to be ‘‘a lit­tle bit more se­ri­ous, un­for­tu­nately’’.

‘‘I don’t think there would be as much ban­ter go­ing on,’’ O’Reilly said.

Pre­lim­i­nary con­sul­ta­tion on the long-term plan for 2018-2028 has fin­ished, and the next step is to draft the plan based on the feed­back re­ceived.

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