Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Guidelines will keep council in check

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Rotorua Lakes Council.
Rotorua Lakes Council.

Councillors will find out what they can and cannot do during this year's election campaign.

Also up for discussion are changes to the Rotorua Lakes Council's annual plan reporting process and an alternative to its Whakarewarewa land treatment system.

A meeting of the council's strategy, policy and finance committee will take place tomorrow from 2pm in the council chamber and is open to the public.

On the agenda are also two confidential items regarding the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Lake Rotorua nutrient management plan change and an agreement on the Rotoiti/Rotoma wastewater treatment plant site.

In her report to councillors, the council's governance and partnerships manager Oonagh Hopkins, said amendments made to the Local Government Act 2002 in August 2014 resulted in changes to the documentation and consultation requirements for annual plans.

It means the council will not have to publicly notify this year's annual plan "unless there are significant or material differences from the long-term plan".

At this stage Mrs Hopkins said "there are no significant or material changes from the long-term plan" and the "annual plan will be adopted on June 30 and will be a much smaller document than traditionally seen".

In his report to councillors, the council's governance lead Rick Dunn said his report would provide elected members with statutory guidance regarding election and communication protocols.

"The local authority election day is Saturday 8 October 2016. Voting documents will be mailed out from Friday 16 September 2016. It is important that both elected members and council staff are aware of the requirements of the Auditor General and legislation in relation to these council elections," he said. The Office of the Auditor General had published a set of guidelines called Good Practice for Managing Public Communications by Local Authorities.

The council must follow the guidelines to "ensure that there are no allegations of bias and public confidence in the election process is maintained".

"Councillors are to remain politically neutral and not endorse a candidate in the normal performance and function of council duties."

This means the council cannot be seen to promote the election prospects of any candidate and use of council resources to do so is "unacceptable and possibly unlawful".

- The agenda is on the council's website, www.rdc.govt.nz

- Rotorua Daily Post

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