Rotorua Lakes Council has apologised after barring a man from entering a public council meeting last week because of "Covid".
Rotorua resident Justin Adams attempted to attend a council meeting on Thursday, but said when he entered the council building around 9.15am - ahead of a 9.30am meeting - the doors were locked.
"[I] was informed by one of the receptionists that there was no public for the Council meeting."
He told the staff member the agenda for the meeting stated it was in the council chamber, and a said the staff member "called someone upstairs". According to Adams, he was then informed the public was not allowed in because of "Covid".
Adams then left "instead of causing a scene".
"I guess what makes this particularly concerning is that the council were discussing the Three Waters reform which is highly controversial."
In the meeting, the council agreed to endorse its preliminary position on Three Waters reform to send to the Local Government Minister, which was that it was "supportive and constructive" towards the proposed reform so long as it is "viable and sustainable".
It raised a number of concerns about public accountability and governance under the proposed reform.
Adams said the livestream, which the council usually provides for meetings, often had audio issues.
"Or [it] takes a long time to be available afterwards and in some cases edited."
In April last year, the council admitted editing the footage of a council meeting as "confidential items" had been discussed, but said it had not edited "public matters or discussions relating to public matters".
Adams wrote to council chief executive Geoff Williams to complain about Thursday's incident.
"'Covid' is not a valid reason for excluding the public from attending a council meeting in the council chamber. We are currently at Covid alert level 2.
"I would also like to point out the members of the media were allowed access to the chamber for the meeting."
On Friday, council chief executive's group deputy chief executive Craig Tiriana responded to Adams' complaint.
"I … can confirm that there has simply been a mistake made," he wrote.
"Under Delta Level 2 there have been slight changes to admittance to the building for customer interactions to manage the increased social distancing space."
He said members of the public had not been allowed direct access to the council meeting.
"This caused confusion on the council meeting day, resulting in some people (including yourself) being stopped from entering the building.
"This was rectified prior to the meeting starting, and I apologise that you were one of the public stopped before the customer centre were [sic] advised that public were allowed to enter to attend the council meeting."
Tiriana confirmed to Adams the public was not barred from attending Rotorua Lakes Council meetings in Covid-19 alert level 2.
Under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, every meeting of a local authority should be open to the public.
However, a modification in the Act allows a meeting to be considered open to the public if the local authority provides a livestream or makes audio, video or a written summary of the meeting available as soon as practicable after the meeting.
That modification will remain in place until the gazetted Epidemic Preparedness (Covid-19) Notice expires or revoked. The notice has been in place and renewed every three months since March 25 last year.
Covid-19 alert level 2 rules state indoor events can allow a maximum of 100 people in a defined space. The 100-person limit does not include staff.
Rotorua Lakes Council was approached for comment on this article, but did not respond in time for the deadline.