Sound Affairs
Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 8:36AM
Bill Barclay

A commitment to taking every measure necessary to ensure that their decision-making processes are fair, square and above board is the very epitome of democratic institutions. Councils can assist this process by ensuring that at the very least, their deliberations are able to be heard by constituents who take the trouble to attend their meetings. 

Our Council has failed in this regard to date, not deliberately, but due mainly to the extraordinary layout of the Council Chamber making it almost impossible for the public to hear the contributions to debate, and decisions. Members appear to have been unaware of just how difficult it is to hear in the public gallery, and quite a number of Councillors and Board members have voices that completely fail to carry. Mumbling and whispers are often all that reach the gallery.

I have lost count of the number of people who have complained to me about this situation, and who have declared their total lack of interest in attending Council as a result. This is a great pity.

It was for this reason that I took a submission to Council this week seeking for consideration to be given to the installation of a high quality sound system to assist both councilors and the public in hearing what is going on.

Here is the content of the submission:

"Your Worship and Councillors:

"If you have not already noticed, the transmission of sound to the public gallery in particular during Council and Board meetings has become a major problem since the adoption of the new layout.

It has become almost impossible to hear some speakers (not all!) during debates, and the decision making process. Those with their back to the gallery are virtually impossible to hear.

I believe that Council has a duty to inform all who attend its meetings in an appropriate manner, but I have no intention of lecturing on your obligations in this regard. My submission is aimed primarily at informing you of the state of acoustics since the change of layout.

Could I please request that consideration be given to the installation of a suitable sound system in the Chamber based on wireless technology, or alternatively the cheaper wired version. The wireless version provides a proper conference style system.

I have taken the trouble to obtain quotes for both versions from Edwards Sound Systems Ltd – one of Auckland’s premier system installers, and have attached same to this submission for your consideration.

This is simply an indication of cost - I fully understand that it would be necessary to undertake a standard acquisition, if not tender process should you agree to proceed.

As you can see, the quote for the wireless system is under $10,000, so this should hopefully. fit somewhere within the Council administration budget. 

For your consideration."

I am pleased to be able to report that the submission received widespread support from around the table, and I am confident that the request will be dealt with favourably and promptly. Several members reported that even they could not hear other members at times.

Not one member questioned my age, and the possible necessity for me to visit a hearing clinic - for that I am grateful!

All very gratifying, and an indication of the new atmosphere around the Chamber, though I did notice that the Waikato Times representative who attends very infrequently was invited by staff to attend morning tea in the 'inner sanctum' - a privilege that has not been extended to me in the entire seven years I have been reporting.

I actually have a strong objection to reporters being present in that situation where members should be free to explore issues out of the Chamber without fear of being overheard - that is the reason for the 'Members Only' notice on the door.

And the only story under her byline in the WT yesterday was one on the Oputere tree vandalism. So that was a waste of time coming all the way over for that - the story was simply a re-hash of the PR release - a  further indication of the abysmal coverage of our Council affairs by our so-called news media.

 

 

 

Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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