This is a local body election year, and in the coming months there will be candidates seeking your vote for the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board and the governing body of Auckland Council. Locals are being encouraged to stand for these positions and to attend the public business meetings of the local board to gain some idea of what is involved.
Anyone who has attended one of these meetings will be aware that not a lot of discussion around the topics on the agenda takes place. Rather, the business meetings are for decision making, with the debate already completed, in closed workshops. This makes it very difficult to get a handle on what issues were contentious, what options were considered and what information staff put before the members. No proper Minutes are provided from workshops. It is an opportunity to discuss things that do not meet the criteria for a confidential discussion, without public or media scrutiny. Closed workshops are also a disincentive to people who want to engage with local issues, including hearing a debate from their elected members. There have been several attempts to get public and media access to the workshops, championed by this paper, over two local board terms.
Whenever the topic is raised, members who oppose the idea suggest there is no public demand. Whether or not people want to attend workshops is not the point; the fact is that the public should have the right to hear discussions by their elected members about issues that concern them, including how ratepayer money is to be spent. That door should always be open. While individual local board members are very helpful when quizzed by the media the fact remains that the organisation maintains confidentiality around matters that should be presented openly. As the election draws closer, there will be a lot of talk about transparency. We hope that whoever is voted in will fight for an openness that so far our local board has failed to achieve.