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Good Move in Tauranga

The following report by John Cousiins appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on 22 November:

"The abolition of secret briefings has been labelled a victory for democracy by re-elected Tauranga city councillor Rick Curach.

He has succeeded in formalising the new direction of the council to replace closed briefings with open workshops.

Today's meeting focused mainly on the council's revamped committee structure and its standing orders. It included a section that dealt with workshops - meetings where councillors were briefed on issues without reaching agreement.

Cr Curach's move to formalise the holding of all workshops in the open, except where good reasons existed to exclude the public, was unanimously endorsed by the newly elected council. It was also agreed that all workshops, including closed sessions, must be publicly notified along with their topics on the council website.

Another long-serving councillor, Catherine Stewart, praised the leadership of new mayor Greg Brownless for backing the move to open workshops - reverting to a system that existed before the 2013 election.

The Bay of Plenty Times revealed this year that nearly 200 confidential briefings were held by the former council over two and a-half years. This was more than twice as many as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and four times more than Hamilton City Council."

All pretty revolutionary, but nevertheless, a bold move by the Tauranga CityCouncil that could well be emulated right here in the interests of re-introducing full democracy to this District.

The excuse for 'closed-door' workshops has always been to allow staff to convey opinions in a 'frank and open manner.' A pretty lame excuse really when one considers the matters that are generally discussed in these workshops.

They were actually used entirely for undemocratic purposes by Leach in order to hide any dissent from public view - decisions may not have been made, but everything else was discussed behind closed doors. Motions were then put to Council then without further discussion in almost every case.

This procedure was adopted right at the outset - apparently at the behest of the elderly outside advisor Leach employed to guide him as to how to run the Council. We all know just undemocratic the outfit became under Leach, and French was quite clearly intending to carry on the tradition.

I have asked for statistics regarding the number of workshops/briefings conducted during the last two terms, and will do a follow up post when I have that information. I hope that someone on the new Council, or indeed Mayor Goudie herself will be prepared to take up the cudgels and introduce a motion to adopt the same procedure that has now been unanimously adopted in Tauranga.

What a win that would be for every rater-payer in this District, but don't hold your breath! There are councillors, and indeed staff who will be very reluctant to see this happen.


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