The doors were opened to a Napier City Council meeting yesterday, after it did an about-face on the previously secret meeting.

The council's audit and risk committee meeting came under scrutiny after all nine of its items were designated for discussion in a publicly excluded portion of the meeting.

This included an item on the city's water supply, which was excluded to protect staff from "improper pressure or harassment".

Read more: Report links fourth death to Havelock North water crisis
Charlotte Descamps: Napier water restrictions, library and war memorial


A local authority has the right to exclude the public under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

However, this meeting gained further attention following recent events - this week water restrictions were implemented, and last week chlorination was again added to the city's supply.

So after a review of each item on the agenda and the reasons for excluding the public, four of the nine items were then moved to the public portion of the meeting.

Council manager business excellence and transformation Rachael Horton said they tried to balance the need for the council to withhold information against the public interest to make this information publicly available.

"We recognise that for some items we have been overly conservative in our assessment of what should be withheld from the public.

"The four items moved to the open agenda are items that, upon review, the public interest outweighs the reason for the item to be publicly excluded. We will be ensuring that we get this balance right for future meetings."

The hot agenda item - a water update - remained public excluded. However, committee chairman John Palairet said this update could be reported to a council meeting later this month.

A council must detail reasons for excluding the public.

The initial reasons for the items heard yesterday ranged from a health and safety report, initially excluded to "avoid prejudice to measures protecting the health and safety of members of the public", to a proposed timeline of four 2018 committee meetings - excluded to "maintain legal professional privilege".

This is not the first time the council has discussed water behind closed doors - in June an eleventh-hour decision was made to discuss a "water risk" update in public excluded.