Mayor rethinks plan to limit public speaking

KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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Kapiti Mayor Ross Church has ditched an idea to restrict public speaking time as a way to make council meetings shorter and more relevant.

Mr Church flagged the suggestion at a council meeting late last year but, after public feedback, has dropped the suggestion.

"The council will not be restricting to agenda items because I now feel, given all the feedback, it is important the local community can bring issues to the council in a way they see fit . . . they can speak on any topic they like," he said.

Critics said restricting public speaking time would limit freedom of speech and leave voters feeling disenfranchised.

Public speaking time at the council's first meeting this year ran from 10am till lunchtime.

Mr Church said he wanted the council to find better ways of bringing items to the council's attention.

"We will not stop anyone talking at public speaking time, they can bring any topic, but we want to find better ways of showing people how they can engage with the council before they come to the end of their tether," he said.

A working party was looking at the feasibility of clinics where people could raise issues with council representatives but he did not want them to become another "system".

The council website was also being upgraded to become more user-friendly after complaints from the public.

"We will also develop better internal communications about where problems and issues should go . . . all these little things [are aimed] to make the whole system better," Mr Church said.

Coastal Ratepayers United secretary Salima Padamsey said many people had contacted her, nervous that restricting public speaking would create "more disenfranchising" and she was relieved the idea had been dropped.

Mrs Padamsey supported clinics if they were done correctly, but not at the cost of public speaking.

"Anything that allows greater access to council can only be a constructive way to have the community participate in local government issues," she said.

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- The Dominion Post

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