Papers and presentations Waipā councillors are privy to at public workshops are not shared in advance or during the meetings.
While that makes it virtually impossible for the public to follow what the councillors are talking about – particularly when they are referring to a document several pages long – deputy chief executive Ken Morris is standing firm.
“We have never made papers or presentations available to the public prior to workshops,” he said.
The News watched the November 14 workshop and briefing day on You Tube but found it difficult to follow the debate on the draft financial strategy and fees and charges without the documents presenters and councillors were referring to.
The News asked why that information could not be provided so the public could follow the debate. The suggestions being canvassed will have significant impacts on residents and ratepayers, we argue.
Some of the documents held back related to plans to introduce alternative revenue streams, such as charges for using the region’s cycleways and increasing fees and charges.
Councillors referred to pages 11, 29 and 31 – all something of a mystery to the public.
Comments made by councillors suggested some of the information had been formulated at a secret workshop the week before, something Morris denied.
“A workshop is an opportunity for elected members to discuss upcoming matters and provide guidance to staff and any papers provided to inform them have been considered an internal communication, as until guidance is provided to staff it is likely the information will change,” said Morris.
He reminded The News workshops and briefings are not meetings under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 and as such no agenda is prepared.
Councillors are influenced in their decision making at behind-closed door workshops. It’s a process which is counter to transparent governance and ombudsman Peter Boshier said so in a report released last month.
Having opened the doors to a workshop but refusing to release related documents in a time-honoured manner, the council scooped The News.
It released its own meeting report after the workshop, soon after we went to press, with details we could not have shared with readers. The council issued a media release, posted it on its website and social media platforms.
Morris said it was the chairperson’s prerogative on how the workshops would be conducted.
“No decisions are made on topics until they are presented at a formal meeting. At that point, all information becomes available to the public along with background to provide context, and recommendations.”
- The News has sought the opinion of the Ombudsman on the running of workshops.
- What do you think? Tell us.