Waipā District Council is continuing to hold behind-closed-doors workshops and briefings despite chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier telling councils last month to “open up”.
A public section of a workshop on Tuesday, held as The News prepared to go to print and which started 20 minutes late at 11.40am, included discussion about a Cambridge Library feasibility study, Ahu Ake Spatial Plan, draft financial strategy and fees and charges.
But providing coverage from the meeting was hampered because The News was denied access to agendas and papers – which provide context to comments made by presenters, councillors and staff.
We were told they would not be released to the public until they were presented to council.
That flies in the face of usual practice to make that information available to the public well ahead of meetings.
Last week the council held an unadvertised closed door workshop, after the Strategic Planning and Policy committee meeting – to discuss the Long Term Plan.
Given the economic storm clouds facing the council, The News has argued that discussion was of public interest.
In response to Boshier’s challenge to councils, a response from the council’s Governance team said the council was taking an “indepth look” into its processes around workshops and meetings and some changes would be made.
This would likely include publicising all workshops and, if they were publicly excluded, the reasons why.
The library issue is being keenly followed in Cambridge.
A new library would need to cater for 39,000 people and cover 2600-2800 square metres – way in excess of the current 740 square metres, Paua Architects’ business
development manager Phil Mackay told councillors at the workshop. The company is leading a government-funded investigation into different options available for the library and the potential inclusion of a community hub and heritage offering.
Cambridge Community Board chair Jo Davies-Colley, who was present at the workshop, said the board was pleased and excited with the progress of the feasibility study.
Board member Elise Badger is part of the working group.
“It’s also great to see the inclusion of our survey data being used to show the hopes and opinions from the Cambridge community in what they would like to see in a new library and community hub,” said Davies-Colley.
See: Behind Closed Doors