There was laughter in the council rooms on Wednesday as some councillors' expenditure revealed they may not be in such high demand as their colleagues.
Bay of Plenty Regional councillors' expenditure was reasonably sedate for the last financial year, most likely because Covid-19 prevented them from travelling and carrying out their usual duties.
Included in the expenditure breakdown are costs claimed for "council-related business", when councillors are invited to events to represent the council.
Tauranga councillor Paula Thompson lightened the mood when she noted she must not be in high demand because her council-related business costs were zero.
Like Thompson, Tauranga councillor Stacey Rose and Okurei Maori constituency councillor Te Taru White's council-related business costs were also zero.
Not surprisingly due to his position, chairman Doug Leeder was the most in demand with his council-related business costs recorded at $25,526.71.
This was also the sum total of his costs as Leeder did not claim any professional development, travel time, mileage, non-taxables, meeting fees, or a communications allowance.
Very little professional development occurred over the last financial year, with only three councillors claiming reimbursement totalling $600.69
Rose claimed the majority of this, $490.90, deputy chairperson Jane Nees claimed $75 and Tauranga councillor David Love, $34.78.
Governance manager Yvonne Tatton told councillors professional development was based on the specific needs of the councillor and councillors received one-on-one meetings where their needs could be discussed and specific courses chosen.
After Leeder, Nees claimed the most expenses during the year at $14,801.61.
She spent $4950.39 on council-related business; $75 on professional development; $840.39 on travel time; $4219.39 on mileage; $231.44 on non-taxables; $3495 on meeting fees and $990 on communications.
Kohi Maori constituency councillor Toi Kai Rakau Iti was the third-highest spender at $11,369.15.
Most of this, $6594.92, was mileage.
The most frugal was Thompson who spent $990, all on communications.
The financial year began before the 2019 elections so re-elected councillors have had a longer time to incur costs than new councillors.
In total the councillors' expenditure was $119,505.46 for the last financial year.
Regional council enters digital world
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has entered the digital world and will be livestreaming its meetings.
The council voted on Wednesday to join the 42 councils out of 78 in New Zealand who livestream public meetings.
The decision comes after the council dipped its toe into livestreaming during the Covid-19 lockdown when the public was unable to attend meetings.
Chairman Doug Leeder raised concerns as to what would happen if a councillor or presenter made a defamatory statement or if submitters did not wish to be recorded.
Governance manager Yvonne Tatton said defamatory statements could be removed from the recording through editing and if any submitter did not wish to be recorded, the cameras could be turned off during their presentation.
She noted the regional council's Rotorua offices did not have the capacity to livestream so any meetings held there would not be recorded.
Councillors deemed the benefits of livestreaming to outweigh the risks.
Potential risks include the encouragement of political grandstanding, public highlighting of embarrassing or inappropriate behaviour, sensitive issues inadvertently being made public, inhibiting of free and frank discussion, and potential liability due to defamation.
The benefits include public insight into council decisions, encouraging considered discussion and mindful behaviour, and alleviating restrictions on the community attending meetings.
When viewing the livestream, viewers will not have a typical Zoom view of talking heads. Instead, they will have a panoramic view of the council meeting room.
Setting up the livestreaming technology will cost $11,000-$9000 for cameras and $2000 for the AV consultant with annual costs of $22,200, which includes licensing fees of $2200 and additional staff resourcing of $20,000.
Bay of Plenty Regional councillor expenditure 2019/20:
Norm Bruning: $2708
Bill Clark: $5368.90
Stuart Crosby: $6617
Doug Leeder: $25,526
David Love: $4072
Matemoana McDonald: $6147
Jane Nees: $14,801
Paula Thompson: $990
Lyall Thurston: $10,285
Andrew von Dadelszen: $2712
Kevin Winters: $7841.63
Stacey Rose: $2503
Toi Kai Rakau Iti: $11,369
Te Taru White: $2870
John Cronin: $3198.77
Tiipene Marr: $7437.36
Arapeta Tahana: $5053