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Councillors want to meet up more frequently

South Wairarapa District Council. PHOTO/FILE

South Wairarapa councillors have asked to return to a six-weekly meeting schedule, instead of eight, to give them more timely oversight over council decisions.

At a full council meeting, councillors did not approve their meeting schedule for the year, with some saying the eight-weekly schedule was not effective for governance.

In the year to date, there have been 80 South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] meetings –this includes community board and committee meetings, and hearings and deliberations.

In comparison, there have been 34 meetings for Carterton District Council and 33 for Masterton District Council.

If community board and Maori Standing Committee meetings are excluded from the tally, there have been 53 meetings this year for South Wairarapa councillors.

SWDC changed the meeting frequency from six-weekly to eight-weekly last year, mirroring the approach made by Carterton District Council.

At the time, South Wairarapa councillors voted in favour of the recommendation, with councillors Brenda West and Pam Colenso opposing.

Colenso had said she thought the six-week cadence should be retained.

“For members of the public, if they miss a meeting with a concern they have, another eight weeks before re-presenting is an awfully long time before they get their point across.”

This sentiment was revisited at the meeting.

Councillor Pip Maynard said she felt the eight weeks between full council meetings was “a long time to be able to have good oversight”.

She felt the council was having more extraordinary meetings with the eight-weekly schedule in order to make timely decisions.

“A primary example is this month: we have a council meeting every week.”

Councillor Rebecca Fox agreed.

“I support what councillor Maynard is saying.

“I have found it difficult to stay across everything with a level of certainty.

“I know the decision to do that [the eight-weekly cycle] was around managing staff time, and I accept that.

“But the reality is, we are in governance, and it is crucial that we are really across things.

“I feel like we have actually lost some ground as a consequence of moving to eight weeks.

“I actually would endorse going back to a six-weekly meeting cycle.”

West agreed and said leaving council decision-making to an eight-weekly cycle “has proven difficult and confusing”.

Councillor Leigh Hay, who chairs the finance, audit, and risk [FAR] committee took the sentiment a step further and suggested FAR should meet monthly.

It currently meets every eight weeks.

In the proposed meeting schedule for next year, FAR only met four times.

This was due to the local body elections at the end of the year.

“That [frequency] concerns me greatly because I think it is very difficult to have good oversight over budgets and knowing where we are at financially,” Hay said.

Colenso agreed.

Councillor Alistair Plimmer said he was happy to go with the majority view, but said work needed to be done on the effectiveness of council committees and subcommittees if SWDC wanted better governance and timely decision-making.

Councillors Brian Jephson and and Garrick Emms agreed that six-weekly meetings would be better, particularly for committees.

Mayor Alex Beijen suggested council staff work to create a new schedule based on the feedback from councillors.— NZLDR

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