QLDC to vote on opening doors on secret workshops
The Queenstown Lakes District Council is proposing to open the doors on secret workshops.
At a full council meeting on Thursday amendments to standing orders will be voted on, and they include the option to add a new section on public attendance at workshops.
Until now, media and other members of the public have been excluded from these workshops, of which there were 60 last year.
The move comes four months after Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier released the findings of an investigation into the degree to which council workshops were undermining local democracy by making critical decisions away from the public eye.
He looked into the operations of eight councils, and QLDC was not one of them.
However his findings confirmed that some councils had been effectively closing all workshops to the public by default, and it is Mr Boshier's view that is "unreasonable".
In a report to councillors ahead of Thursday's meeting, QLDC governance and stakeholder services manager Naell Crosby-Roe says the proposed changes to standing orders will ensure the council aligns with the expectations outlined by the Ombudsman in October.
If approved the new standing orders will however prohibit members of the public making any electronic or digital recording, or taking photographs, during workshops.
Mr Crosby-Roe says councillors have requested this ban.
The amendments allow for times when the public could be excluded from workshops, generally when it is decided the contents are of a "sensitive nature" or include "negotiations".
However they include instruction that a written record be kept that will include "detail of discussion or direction that contributes to an audit trail toward a formal decision of council".
If approved, workshops will be open in the Queenstown Lakes District from March.
In October, Crux reported that the Dunedin City Council had made immediate changes to open its workshops in response to the Ombudsman's report, in a move chief executive Sandy Graham said showed a commitment to "operating as transparently as possible".
In the last year, QLDC workshops have covered wide-ranging topics, including the controversial Lakeview and Project Manawa developments, a development agreement related to the stalled Kingston three waters upgrades, the sale of the lease for a handful of local campsites to offshore buyers, and the petition calling for the Wānaka-Upper Clutha Ward to break away from the district.