Webcams made meetings stronger, says mayor
Watching Taupo district councillors go about their business at monthly meetings live on the internet is "sometimes funnier than the movies", Mayor Rick Cooper says.
"It's real life; sometimes it is funny, sometimes it is dramatic, and sometimes it is even fictional," he said.
Monthly meetings are streamed live on webcam, and can be cheap entertainment for viewers.
Figures supplied by the council showed last year an average total of 186 viewers, or 15 a meeting, logged on to the council website through the year to watch a live stream of the monthly meetings.
The service cost about $2800 to set up, including installing a webcam in the council chambers. Running costs were an average $1016.50 a month, or about $12,200 annually.
That amounted to about $5.45 a meeting for each viewer to sit in the comfort of their own home, or office, and watch three to four hours of local democracy at work.
That compares with $18-$22 for a movie ticket.
Taupo District Council became the first to broadcast monthly meetings on its website, in July 2010. The first live stream attracted 273 viewers, with 800 logging on during the day.
Over the past three years the number of viewers watching meetings live has ranged between 155 (2010) and 232 (2011) and 186 (2012).
On demand viewing - usually by people at home after work - showed stronger results, with about 1830 viewers in 2011, up from 800 in 2010, and nearly 1800 last year.
Mr Cooper championed meetings being shown live on webcam as soon as he became mayor in 2007. The council eventually adopted the idea after a narrow 6-5 vote in favour.
Since then live broadcasts had improved councillors' behaviour at meetings and had developed a more accurate record of meetings, he said.
"Anybody, including councillors, can now go back and check what was said and who said what on any issue raised. There's no argument; it's all there in black and white.
"Before, we had to rely on the minutes being taken by hand.
"Councillors would sometimes play up to whoever was in the public gallery. Now we don't know who is watching . . . The discussions are much stronger."
The Dominion Post