Commentary: On Friday 3 December 2021, the Waipapa/Papanui-Innes community Board is set to decide on a meeting schedule for 2022. Two options are proposed by staff: meet twice a month (as has been the case up until now); or meet only once a month. Would the latter option reduce public access and participation?
In addition to Ordinary Meetings, the Board also meets informally at least once a month for briefings from Council staff and other updates. With very limited exceptions, these briefings have not been open to the public. If the Board resolves to hold only one formal meeting a month, the agenda notes that the informal briefings could be held at ‘various community locations’ within the Community Board area, and that they include a 30 minute public forum to allow the local community to raise issues and update the Board on matters of interest.
A concern of mine is a low level of public attendance at Board meetings, even pre-pandemic when participation was easier. I wonder if the location (the Papanui Boardroom) and current timing (9am on a Friday) suit people who have an interest in specific agenda items or in the general operation of our local democracy?
To improve public access our Board has led the way in live-streaming our formal meetings on our Board-managed Facebook page, a change introduced as we headed towards the first COVID lockdown early in 2020. This allows meetings to be followed in real time, and also reviewed later. Attendance by Zoom to observe the meeting or make a public forum or deputation is now also possible.
The Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Community Board is a two-Ward Board*, and as such has a smaller area to govern than the more common three-Ward Boards across Christchurch. Agendas have been reasonably light through 2021, perhaps due to the smaller area the Board serves. Meeting once a month will allow for all items of business to be progressed satisfactorily while freeing staff up to attend to other matters. For me, the decision about one or two monthly meetings comes down to public access and participation.
*the composition of Community Boards across Christchurch may change after the 2022 local body elections. In the recent representation review, the Council has proposed disestablishing the Waikura/Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board, and rejigging Board areas so that all Community Boards are composed of three Wards. In our area this would result in a Papanui-Innes-Central three-Ward Board. A final decision is due from the Local Government Commission any day.
The Board’s decision made on 3 December will set the frequency, location, and timing for 2022 meetings through to the local body election in October that year. A meeting schedule beyond that date would then be set by the incoming elected members. The Board could also review meeting arrangements during the year if it wished to do so.
Question for readers
how would you like your Community Board to arrange meetings in 2022 for optimum public access and participation?