Local bodies lukewarm on webcams

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 08:00 16/02/2013

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The option of installing cameras in council chambers to make meetings more open to the public has been dismissed as unnecessary by local authorities in the greater Manawatu region.

The Taupo District Council was the first authority to stream its meetings live via a webcam in 2010, with the first livestream attracting 273 viewers and 800 people logging on during the day.

It had since said the broadcasting improved councillors' behaviour at meetings, developed a more accurate record of meetings and made discussions more transparent.

Tararua District Council chief executive Blair King said the council would consider cameras if residents wanted them.

"Cameras in the chambers are an option, but not one of our ratepayers has asked us to spend money installing them yet," he said.

"If submissions were received that showed community support for viewing meetings on-line, [it] would be considered."

Manawatu District Council chief executive Lorraine Vincent said live online streaming had been discussed, but the costs were not worth it.

"Installation costs, on-going costs and the actual benefit to ratepayers has pushed it down the priority list," she said.

Rangitikei District Council executive officer Zoi Grammaticogiannis said it was not a necessary expense and, because areas in the district were still on dial-up internet, the increased technology costs ruled it out.

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Ward said the issue had never been brought up, but the council often dealt with interested ratepayers who filmed meetings for uploading to YouTube.

Palmerston North City Council spokesman Daniel O'Regan said the topic had been raised before, but there were no plans to use cameras any time soon.

Figures supplied by the Taupo District Council showed last year that an average of 186 viewers, or 15 a meeting, logged on to the council website to watch a livestream of the monthly meeting.

The setup cost of $2800 included installing a webcam and running costs averaged $1016.50 a month, or $12,200 annually.

The estimated cost 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 was about $5.45 a meeting.

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- Manawatu Standard

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