Council eyes having fewer secrets

By Mike Barrington


A call by three Whangarei district councillors for public involvement in topics discussed behind closed doors appears to have brought a relaxation of council secrecy.

Following a Northern Advocate request under the Official Information Act for the topics discussed at a council workshop on Thursday, the council yesterday issued a media release about a possible review of plans for developing sports facilities on Pohe Island, the former central city rubbish dump which has been turned into a 54ha park.

It has been disclosed WDC staff have been considering amending council agendas to include more information on confidential items, although a time has not been set for making a final decision on these changes.

The three councillors - Brian McLachlan, Aaron Edwards and Crichton Christie - sent an open letter to Mayor Morris Cutforth on Monday urging him to make the workshop a public meeting as it related to topics not in the Long Term Plan involving public assets and ratepayer money.

The trio, who feared the topics would be "stitched up" at the workshop, making any future council decision-making on them a formality, appealed to Mr Cutforth to fulfil his election promise to run an open and transparent council.

Discussing the open letter with the Advocate, the mayor defended his record on running an open council and said workshops were confidential so commercially sensitive issues could be discussed.

But he also said workshops enabled the council to get its "ducks in a row" so there would be no surprises when decisions on sensitive issues were made in open meetings.

The media release yesterday said on February 27 the council would consider whether to review the reserve management plan for Pohe Island.

If it got the green light, a consultation process involving public input would take place through April and a draft plan would be released for public submissions at the end of May.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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