Dunedin council makes immediate move to open, public workshops

by Peter Newport - Oct 26, 2023

In a quick public response to the Chief Ombudsman’s call for an end to secret council workshops the Dunedin City Council has said it will open their workshops to the public from next month.

The move comes in stark contrast to a statement from the Queenstown Lakes District Council saying they will simply consider the Ombudsman’s position.

Crux revealed this week that QLDC has held 86 secret workshops in the last two years with council staff unsure whether any records were kept.

Here’s the full statement from the Dunedin City Council’s chief executive Sandy Graham.

“We are committed to operating as transparently as possible and have been following the progress of the Ombudsman’s review into local Council meetings and workshops with interest.

“We are still reviewing the Ombudsman’s report, but an initial reading suggests we are doing well in most areas, including limiting the number of non-public reports, live streaming meetings, proactively releasing previously non-public material, having an accessible website and having good governance knowledge across the wider leadership team.

“We agree with the Ombudsman’s views on non-public workshops and we can confirm that, beginning next month, our workshops and/or briefings will be held in public wherever possible (unless there are good grounds for them to be non-public such as commercial sensitivity or legal privilege).

“We don’t intend to livestream workshops at this stage, but we will advertise the time and topics publicly in advance and provide a summary of who has attended, topics discussed and provide any related documentation on our website.

“It’s important to note our workshops have never been decision-making meetings, and we take our commitment to transparency seriously.

“The move to public workshops has been under consideration for some time and builds on the work we have already done to promote transparency and openness.”

Earlier this week the QLDC told Crux:

“QLDC welcomes the report from the Ombudsman which this Council and the wider sector has been anticipating for some time. The Ombudsman makes a broad range of recommendations and clarifies some of his expectations of councils’ conduct relating to workshops and excluding the public from parts of public meetings.

“Like other councils, QLDC will review the recommendations and expectations to understand the full set of actions required. Staff will also need to engage with elected members to discuss and agree any changes in practice ahead of implementing them across the organisation. QLDC will also take into account advice being prepared by Taituarā (an advisory group/union for senior council managers) to the whole sector."

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