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Push to livestream council meetings

Councilor Gary Caffell with Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson. PHOTO/FILE

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Masterton district councillor Gary Caffell is pushing the idea of livestreaming council meetings in the hope people can see more of what councillors do.

“I don’t think it would attract a big audience but at least it would give people the opportunity to see councillors in action,” he said.

It would improve the debate about issues, he said.

He said the media did not report everything that everyone said at council meetings.

“The impression could be given to people that a lot of councillors are saying nothing when actually they are very much in the debate at times,” he said.

He said hardly anyone turned up in the public gallery for the public portion of meetings.

“Livestreaming has been discussed in the past and it has always been a case of wait until we get facilities,” he said.

Masterton District Council chief executive Kath Ross said the council was committed to running a transparent process and this included introducing livestreaming so residents who could not attend meetings had the chance to observe the decision-making process.

The introduction of livestreaming depends on reliable, efficient and cost-effective technology, she said.

Currently, the closure of the town hall and council buildings means council hires different meeting rooms in Masterton.

To livestream meetings, the technology would have to be relocated before and after each meeting, which was not an efficient process, she said.

“We are keen to look at introducing livestreaming when the council has a permanent meeting room. Potential opportunities include within Waiata House and within the Civic Centre,” Ross said.

A spokesman for Local Government New Zealand said the organisation did not keep exact records of how many councils livestream meetings but on a rough count, more than 20 did.

According to a LGNZ briefing, the trend started with Taupo District Council which streamed its first meeting in 2010.

An inaugural livestream by Whanganui District Council in 2016 had 1400 unique views and later livestreams had an average of 1050 views, with an additional 150 views of the archived recordings.

Livestreaming is seen as a low-risk and accessible way for members of the public to familiarise themselves with how their councils make decisions.

After a year of livestreaming, Auckland Council had 2927 views by February 2016.

Caffell said he had not decided if he was standing again in local body elections later this year.

He has previously had a tilt at being mayor.

“A lot of people are asking me, but I haven’t made a decision one way or the other,” he said.

“For me the decision will be how quickly we work on the town hall because I think that is huge.”

He said council had to move quickly on making a decision, and had to take the public with it when it did.

He wants the character of the building to be kept.

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