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Council Workshops - 'A Blight On Democracy'

Readers will note that I have highlighted an interesting sentence in the 'Follow-On' to previous post.

It relates to the fact that our Council decided to 'Workshop' a discussion about the Climate Change Declaration after the closure of the 19 February meeting.

It is now 'par for the course' to adopt this device to hide any discussion that may become contentious ior embarrassing. It is used now to a far greater extent than any previous Council, though Leach was rather partial to its use - he did after all have a great deal to hide.

It is a device that is deplored by the Local Government Commission, and represents a total abrogation of the democratic right of every ratepayer to know what is going on behind the closed doors of our Council. I make a point of sitting through meetings until the "Public Excluded section when agendered items must fall within the defined limits of the Local Government Meetings Act, and generally do.

But workshops are another matter, and are entirely at the discretion of the Mayor. They are supposed to be used only for the purpose of allowing staff to expand on matters more fully that would be convenient in a formal meeting - not for hiding dissent simply for the sake of creating the impression that all is 'sweetness and light' on our Council.

Rate-payers are entitled to know the actual position of each of their councillors or every subject on which our Council is required to make make decisions. It is why I attend - to report on debate, not decisions that have already been made elsewhere which is the case as things stand. If they think that 'batting heads' is best behind closed doors, they are sadly mistaken, and in breach of the rules and conventions. It incidentally gives a totally false impression of the manner in which our Mayor performs in debate.

They may think it best to hide away in this manner, but the Climate Change Declaration is the perfect example of an issue that should have been discussed in Tuesday in open forum - April is too late, and gives the impression that they are simply reacting to adverse public reaction.




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Reader Comments (5)

As you rightly point out, the opportunity for Councillors to express their viewpoints on behalf of our constituency and ratepayers has been limited to date and important that everyone knows what those views might be. It would have been good to get a bit more open forum debate on this important subject.
My viewpoint is as follows:

As a TCDC Councillor representing my community I feel a huge responsibility to encourage the signing of the Mayoral LGNZ Climate Change Declaration and have strongly stated this position around the Council table both in writing and discussions from the outset.
  I understand 55 Local Government authorities have signed up and curiously some haven’t despite their reasons given!? That’s politics and democracy as we all consider our different viewpoints of “you know best for them and they know best for you” scenarios.

But put simply:
if you believe that human caused climate change is happening and you want to reduce the carbon footprint that’s causing it, then the signing up of the Mayoral declaration affirms that responsibility and determination.

The Local Govt NZ president David Cull was recently heard on Radio NZ as saying that the Declaration is purely an aspirational document and not a binding contract. I think he is right!

I personally believe that there is nothing in the declaration that binds council to costs other than it may otherwise have to commit within the bounds of affordability and responsibility.

The signing of the declaration would also be consistent with some of the good work currently being done by Council around Coastal Management Plans etc.

Yes, future costs associated with climate change solutions are a big QUESTION mark for us all to work out down the track (more Questions than answers currently)
Who will pay for what at the end of the day as climate change solutions or adaptive pathways materialize is anyone’s guess. That’s a bit scary!

We have all witnessed:
• Extreme, record-breaking weather like what we are seeing locally and in California will only get more and more frequent
• They will become much worse, as the effects of climate change increase. 
• It is our job to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels etc if we are to address this massive planetary crisis if we are going to leave behind a habitable planet for our kids and grandkids.
 I have received lots of emails from concerned citizens seeking my viewpoint and to encourage the Mayor to sign the declaration and have responded accordingly. There has also been lots of discussion in our community with me as well.

Climate Change is now a well-established fact and not some notion, idea or belief. We share our concerns globally and locally calling for urgent actions to offset our carbon footprint.

For all of the above reasons it would be hard to believe that our council could think this non-binding and aspirational declaration could be a bad idea to sign, and I believe that this view will represent the majority of our citizens, agree or disagree! ………. I am pleased there will be a resolution of Council at the next Council meeting to decide whether to sign or not sign the Declaration and hope strong leadership about Climate Change will prevail.

Strat Peters
TCDC Councillor/Thames Ward

February 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStrat Peters

Strat, you've gone onto "Climate change" matters, but the issue that Bill has raised is actually about the continuous closed door workshops held by Coucnil and community boards about a multitude of topics and issues. If you have debate in the workshops then none at the council meeting, I have no idea what stance you are taking for anything. Start debating issues in Council, not during closed door workshops.

February 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFull House

While workshops may be at the discretion of the Mayor, surely councillors could 'do the right thing' if they feel the Mayor is overstepping the mark. If one or more councillors consider a particular topic should be discussed openly then they can show leadership to those who elected them - us - by walking out and leaving the Mayor to it! Workshops should not be for the Mayor's convenience or held to avoid the Council incurring possible adverse publicity. Come on Strat, if you see the need in the public interest for open forum debate on any topic the Mayor is trying to hide from the public by having a workshop - then please show leadership. Talk to other possible like-minded councillors. Say what you really think against discussion being held in secret, and all walk out if the Mayor can't see reason!

February 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTim

On Monday I went to the Pauanui Tairua Community Board meeting, to observe the goings on. On the agenda was a draft MoU for the Hikuai District Trust to look after stage 2 of the Pauanui Tairua trail once it is gazetted. I waited for robust debate, questions about the day to day reality of this MoU and how it was going to work. Instead I watched a group of people giggling, chortling, suggesting it be signed straightaway, no questions were asked and the Chair said he had spoken with Gary Fowler, the Chair of the HDT, and reported that he was happy with the arrangement. The HDT didn't have a representative at the meeting.

I raise this point because clearly it had all been discussed behind closed doors and the meeting on Monday was simply a rubber-stamping exercise.

Where was democracy? Not present.

February 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVicki

The Agenda for Whangamata Community Board is online for meeting 5 Mar 2019. The " blight on democracy "appears to be happening in the Eastern South Ward TCDC with listed under 4.1 Action Schedule. It seems that along with the regular every meeting Public Excluded section of meetings that all decisions are made outside of community board and council meetings - an erosion of our democracy and proper representation of ratepayers. Often changed later because found made a mistake.

Can see in 4.1 Action Schedule Paradise Coast raises itself again with yet another workshop on 5th March - this time with both community boards of Eastern South Ward TCDC - all before an AGM of Paradise Coast advertised for 6th March at the Whangamata Ocean Sports Fishing Club

Roll on quickly Council elections this year.

Thanks Bill Anne

March 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

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