Hibiscus & Bays Local Board staff, who support the work of elected members, have accessed legal advice on the vexed question of whether or not Board workshops should be open to the public.
Currently the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board holds workshops behind closed doors. The workshops include presentations by staff and discussion, and although decisions are not made at workshops, recommendations that lead to decisions are often formulated there.
The legal advice that the local board used in its discussions with members this term was originally obtained in 2016 in response to a request from the Devonport Takapuna Local Board.
It includes the statement that: “The Local Government and Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (LGOIMA) does permit (and it is therefore legal) for non-decision making workshops to be held in closed session (without the public present). This is because workshops or other non-decision making meetings have been purposefully excluded from the LGOIMA definition of “meetings”
It goes on to say that effectively it is up to each local board to decide whether or not to open its workshops – “However, as a general proposition, Local Boards can legally hold “non-decision making workshops” in open and invite members of the public, media or stakeholders to attend. ... from a legal perspective there is no reason why a local board cannot hold a closed workshop but also no reason why a local board cannot hold an open workshop.”
Hibiscus representatives on the local board campaigned to end closed, confidential workshops and the matter is expected to come before a public meeting for a decision in due course.
Interestingly, Hibiscus Matters discovered that its correspondence with Auckland Council’s media team about this matter was shared with local board members, which the media team says is normal practice.
However, two former Hibiscus & Bays local board members and two current ones spoken to by Hibiscus Matters say receiving copies of journalists’ email traffic is not normal practice, and something they’ve never seen happen before – although general information about media enquiries is shared.