Northland's district councillors will still be making decisions affecting their residents and ratepayers during the Covid-19 lockdown, despite most council meetings being cancelled.
Whangārei District Council will not be holding any council meetings until the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown is lifted. This will continue until the Government lifts the lockdown.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said WDC had delegated emergency decision making powers in the meantime. This meant council governance and management could still proceed.
Mai or Deputy Mayor Greg Innes – and the chair of whichever of the council's four committees that was relevant - had been given the power to make urgent decisions as required.
WDC chief executive Rob Forlong has also been given formal powers to be part of urgent decision making in the absence of Mai or Innes. His budget for urgent spending - if required increased to $4.5 million dollars. Nine WDC scheduled April council meetings have been cancelled.
Mai said Whangarei's public did not need to feel they were left out of the opportunity for transparent local democracy as a result of the lockdown and cancelled meetings.
Those delegated emergency decision-making powers through level 4 lockdown also had the right to call for a full council to meet, should they feel there was the need.
"I would never take on the responsibility of making major significant decisions for our district without full council participating," Mai said.
Northland councils are scrambling to put stable, secure online decision-making meeting platforms in place, with consideration of how the public is potentially involved which will be mainly through post-meeting reporting.
"Yes, we have a few people who have the power to make decisions but I would prefer to wait until we have (the online technology in place) for an open and democratic process before proceeding with that option (at a full council meeting)," Mai said.
Far North District Council will still hold its April scheduled full council meeting on April 9 and has added a new second full council meeting on April 23. FNDC has put off the month's seven other scheduled meetings.
Will Taylor, FNDC general manager – corporate services, said FNDC was working to ensure elected representatives could perform their leadership role during the lockdown and preserve the transparency of the process for the public.
The council would be recording the public portion of all virtual meetings and make these available online.
"As is also currently the case, agendas will be publicly available online ahead of each meeting and meeting minutes will be published as soon as possible after the meeting has finished," Taylor said.
Kaipara District Council is also still holding its scheduled full council meeting on April 29.
KDC Mayor Jason Smith said KDC was working to develop a robust council meeting platform suited to the decision-making requirements of a full council meeting.
Northland's councils were all looking at how they could best contribute to their communities' rights to robust local democracy during level four Covid-19 lockdown.
A requirement of the new legislation allowing for online meetings is that councils must report back to their ratepayers and residents very quickly after a council meeting is held.
Smith said KDC was looking at what technology could be available for more active public participation in its end of April meeting.
KDC is also still holding its mid-April LTP workshop – but online. It will be used as an initial trial for how an online meeting might operate at the full council meeting.
Mayor Smith, Deputy-Mayor Anna Curnow and councillor Peter Wethey (or a substituted elected member should one of these become incapacitated) were delegated the KDC roles.
KDC chief executive Louise Miller's emergency spending powers under level four Covid-19 lockdown have been increased to $1 million dollars.