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Amplification - A Good Start for 2014!

It being the day for good resolutions, can I suggest one simple way by which our Council could better connect with its constituents, and provide proof that it does care about how it is perceived within the wider community.

For years it has resisted amplification within the Council Chamber – much to the chagrin of all those who come to present petitions, provide advice, and plea for Council action of some kind or other. Then there are those who simply present themselves for the purpose of hearing what their Council and councillors are up to, and how they go about conducting their business.

Unfortunately, because of the manner in which the Chamber is laid out, it is almost impossible to hear what is going on, and in particular hear what is said by those, including submitters and staff, who are required to speak across the Chamber away from the spectator gallery.

Through a fine display of vindictiveness, the Chief Executive, with or without direction from Council has instructed staff to remove the media table that has traditionally stood at the junction between the ranks of spectators and councillors to the far reaches of the room where it has been relabelled “Public”, but from where it is virtually impossible to hear anything, excepting our Mayor’s velvet tones. They have even gone to the trouble of removing comfortable chairs - we are clearly seen as the enemy, and to be frustrated at every step. How pathetic can you get?

This is a clearly a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to make it as inconvenient as possible for the only two regular reporters of events in the Chamber, including myself. I have simply taken to bringing my own note-taking holder into the Chamber with me, and continuing to sit sit on stack chairs where the media table previously stood. But I hear constant complaints from spectators who are inconvenienced - even those who are clearly not hard of hearing. The lack of savvy right through the upper echelon of this organisation beggars belief.

But reporting of events within the Chamber would be even further restricted were I or anyone else to respond to this petty and churlish behaviour by absenting ourselves – something that I feel sure would be welcomed by most of those present. That would be counter-productive, and I am simply encouraged to put more effort into the task.

The previous Chief Executive claimed that the cost of amplification would be prohibitive –  patently absurd when examined in the light of the number of other chambers, and places of worship around the town that appear to have no difficulty overcoming the problem with amplification systems of varying quality.

It is high time that this ridiculous state of affairs was corrected, and a decision made to undertake an efficient installation without any further delay. Council owes this to its constituents, and it is appropriate that such an installation takes place before the District Plan Hearings in July in which there is likely to be substantial interest. It is surely a requirement of a modern democracy that such an installation is undertaken, even if un-mandated.

At the very least there should be a system installed that provides amplification for submitters and those facing away from the spectator gallery. But a full moderated system with individual microphones provided for Council meetings is required. Undoubtedly there will be complications, but none that cannot be overcome with a minimum of ingenuity. For example, microphones can now be installed wire-lessly, thus overcoming a major objection.

The fact that our Council is now one of the very few that do not provide this service is an indictment, and staff should be instructed forthwith to proceed with the employment of a expert in the field to undertake an appropriate plan, and obtain quotes.

This would indicate that our staff and councillors are willing and able to get 2014 off on a footing that reflects a new level of respect for rate-payers. Respect has been absent for far too long, and has recently been  exemplified by the grossly varying time limits imposed on submitters by the Mayor in Public Forum, reflecting either personal prejudice, or friendship.  




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