CHB mayor Alex Walker says she's working on trying to make as much council business as possible open to the public, but there are specific constraints on what business can be conducted in a public forum.

The Central Hawke's Bay District Council does not have the number of committees and subcommittees of the other bigger councils in the region, and its public excluded meetings are incorporated into the same day as the council meetings.

Of its ordinary full council meetings, 25 were held between October 2013 and October 2016 and of those 16 contained public excluded items - that's 64 per cent.

Ms Walker, who is embarking on her first term in office, said public exclusion was about the law regarding people's safety and commercial confidentiality.


This encompassed events directly involving a staff member, a person's safety, or negotiating contracts with commercial property owners and leaseholders.

"My approach is to have the doors open as a default and to look carefully at the reasons for excluding the public, and whether it is really necessary."

In a legal and technical sense meetings were where decisions were made, unlike workshops, which tended not to be open to the public, she said.

There can be a perception that workshops are where the decisions are made before being simply rubber-stamped at open council meetings, but she said they serve a cause.

"Workshops are for providing information and discussion so people understand the issues."

Like with council meetings, she said she was working towards making workshops more open as well, only having them closed if there was good reason.

A call for more transparency around council business was a defining feature of this year's local body elections in CHB, but it was not only about public access to meetings, Ms Walker said.

"It's also about having good communication from the top to the bottom of the organisation at relevant times.


"That's what gives the public a good understanding of the business and what's happening in the community and why decisions are made."