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Call for meetings to stream online

By John Cousins

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Tauranga people interested in local-body affairs may not have to attend meetings to keep up with the play in future.
Tauranga people interested in local-body affairs may not have to attend meetings to keep up with the play in future.

Tauranga City Council meetings could be brought into ratepayers' living rooms if an idea of newly elected councillor Steve Morris gains traction.

Cr Morris is promoting live streaming of council meetings via a webcam in the debating chamber. And if the time was not convenient to watch it live, the recording would be available to view on the council's website.

He sees big benefits from Tauranga joining other cities such as Hamilton, Taupo and New Plymouth in having cameras at meetings.

Cr Morris believed it would bring extra accountability because, unlike the usually empty public gallery, councillors would not know when they were being watched. He said it had the potential to improve debate because councillors would better prepare their arguments, and behaviour towards each other would improve.

Cr Morris said webcam coverage would lead to more respect towards members of the public who spoke to meetings. He recalled instances in which speakers had been reduced to tears: "If it went out on YouTube, look out."

He said it did not need to cost a lot and the recordings could be time-stamped so people knew where to go to watch items that interested them.

Cr Morris also wants an online record of how the council votes on issues - those who voted for and against.

Apart from the big issues, he did not expect many people to watch the live streaming. Neither did he expect it would lead to big increases in voting, but the council would be more user-friendly.

Mayor Stuart Crosby reacted favourably because a substantial upgrade of the council's computer system was already under way. The council was also improving the sound system in the debating chamber.

It meant that people with an interest in a certain topic could view it rather than go to the meeting: "Sometimes it is not always convenient to attend."

Ultra-fast broadband would also make it easier for users, and phone technologies meant people could watch the meetings remotely.

Inquiries by Councillor Rick Curach into Hamilton's system, which began a year ago, showed 100 to 200 people were logging on to view meetings but most soon logged off, presumably because it was boring, he said.

Cr Curach, who previously mooted the idea, said: "We would have to look at the costs ... because if only a handful of people were viewing, then it could be better to stick with the audio recording of meetings."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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