Zooming in on council

By Mary Anne Gill

Many councils around the world live streamed their meetings during Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Waipā District Council was one of them and the council continues doing live streams for council and key committee meetings.

My first assignment for the Cambridge News was to cover the April 27 council meeting online.

Ken Morris, group manager Business Support says residents want transparency.

“Livestreaming our meetings assists in providing this. It’s another way for the community to be informed and take part in local government decision making, and one of the biggest benefits is that you can either watch the meeting live or go back to it in your own time.”

Well done to the council for investing in this technology – but there are improvements needed.

Anyone can go to council and committee meetings at Waipā’s council chambers in Te Awamutu.

Agendas and seating are available and there’s name tags in front of the mayor and councillors.

But that is not the case when you are watching from the comfort of your home or work.

The position of the camera in Te Awamutu has four of the councillors either completely or partially obscured.

You cannot see any name tags and so it is hard going to know who is speaking if the only contact you have with your councillors is every three years when their billboards go up on the side of the road. If you live in Cambridge, for example, you would have no idea who the Pirongia or Kakepuku ward councillors are anyway.

The other problem comes when you cannot hear a speaker because they do not speak directly into the microphone or they discard the microphone completely.

Fortunately, none of the Waipā meetings I watched descended into the same chaos as the Handforth Parish Council meeting in England last year when Jackie Weaver removed the chairman despite his protestations of: “You have no authority here Jackie Weaver!”

Waipā councillors are polite and well behaved, on live stream at any rate.

A lot of readers might find watching paint dry more interesting.

Certainly, there were people who tuned into the council’s best rated meeting the Finance and Corporate committee meeting on 21 April 2021 with 131,238 views, who reported these ulterior motives:

• Literally put this zoom call on at work so it looked like I was busy, I was avoiding having to deal with a stressful individual. And it worked, thank you.

• Me using this to make my parents think that im studying (followed by a laughing emoji)

• Anyone else using this just so they can sound like they’re in a meeting so their other family members don’t disturb them while working from home?

• Is there a US or UK version of this? My misses keeps asking why all the people I work with are Australian when I tell her that I have a meeting I can’t leave…

• Put the busy signal on my internal Skype and turned this on. Good thing no one actually listens closely to the voices. I throw in a clearing of my throat every so often too.

How to watch a Waipā council meeting:

• Go to www.waipdc.govt.nz and look under Your Council for Agendas, Minutes & Livestream

• Open the agenda in another tab so you can follow what the councillors are talking about

• In yet another tab, open the page Mayor and Councillors; there you’ll see their photos and names plus their mobile numbers

• If you are feeling mischievous, ring the numbers and watch to see if anyone forgot to turn their phone off!

• If you are near a television, go to You Tube and search for Waipa District Council

• Help my colleagues in the Communications team by subscribing to the channel

• Watch it over and over, it gets the views up.

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