I received a tremendous response to my call in yesterday's editorial for readers to email me if they want Hawke's Bay Today to take a stand against our local councils having publicly excluded segments to their meetings.

I obviously hit a nerve because many people are pretty steamed about the practice of councils going behind closed doors to decide how and why they should spend ratepayers' money.

The emails started rolling in before 8am yesterday under titles like council madness, transparency and council secrecy. One thing is for sure: people want to know what is happening with their money.

What sparked it all was the revelation in our paper that the Hastings District Council voted "in secret" to grant a $50,000 job creation incentive to the Bay's largest water exporter, Miracle Water.


The council confirmed that as of this month, $12,500 had been paid to Miracle Water. Apparently grants are paid in instalments as a company reaches "pre-determined employment milestones".

The strong message I have received from the reader emails is that they don't want secret meetings at all. I think occasionally there is a time and a place for the public to be excluded from a commercially sensitive or personal discussion, but generally that should only happen a couple of times a year.

The temptation to retreat behind closed doors seems to be simply too great for councillors to resist because it seems to happen very often.

So, as your paper and your voice, we will continue to let you know when your local councils, from Wairoa to Tararua, exclude us and you, from proceedings.

We will build up a list of the occasions and the offending councils and will run it regularly.

You have a right to know.