Speaking at Council has never been easier
As a local government nerd, I know exactly when Council meetings take place and know that it’s possible to speak at them if you have a particular interest in the topics on the agenda. For example, recently Council has discussed reactions to Covid-19, sea defences for Owhiro Bay and the plan for Karori Events Centre.
Before lockdown, I spoke at Council on a rainy Wednesday morning. I had to leave a work meeting early, dashing across town on foot to get to The Terrace on time. I was allowed 5 minutes to speak in front of 15 faces, followed by a questions from some of those friendly faces, after which I returned to work. It was difficult for me to attend, requiring an understanding employer, a flexible work schedule and the nerve to get up and speak before people who have earned the votes and respect of their community. For many Wellingtonians, attending a Council meeting in person is impossible.
Since lockdown commenced, all Council meetings are done via Zoom. The excellent in-house Democracy Services team have taken public participation online too. This means you can contribute to Council meetings from the comfort of your own home, workplace, cafe, breakroom, bus driver’s cab, tramping hut, beach, lecture theatre, anywhere! I spoke at a meeting a few weeks ago, it took less than ten minutes and reading from my notes was much easier. The whole experience was far less stressful and time-consuming than attending Council offices in person.
After lockdown is over and the threat of Covid-19 has subsided, the Council intends to continue offering public participation via Zoom.
Suddenly, the demographic of people able to speak at Council meetings has dramatically expanded. People outside of the CBD ‘bubble’ are now much more able to have their views heard by their representatives. Wellington City Council needs to be pushing the fact that local democracy just became far more open.
Whether you agree with what Wellington City Council is doing or not, improving access to air your views to your Councillors has to be a step forward for a people focused city.
WCC Meetings Calendar: https://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/meetings/meetings-calendar
WCC - Speaking at meetings: https://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/meetings/speaking-at-meetings