Workshops will be open, says Miccio

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 06/11/2012

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City council workshops on annual plans will be open to the public, says Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio.

The statement comes after commentary surrounding the amount of business the council conducts in private.

Nelson lawyer Ken Beckett, who has become a regular visitor to the Nelson City Council's public forums, appeared at last week's governance committee meeting to convey his concern at the amount of council business conducted in "public excluded" sessions.

The same applied to council workshops, many of which were conducted in private, Mr Beckett said.

Mr Miccio said last week that all workshops that led to preparing the last annual plan were open to the public, but no-one from outside the council attended.

Mr Beckett said the council workshops on February 29, March 1-2 and March 5-6 on the 2012-2022 long-term plan were public excluded, according to information supplied to him under the Official Information Act.

Mr Miccio said his comment about the workshop being open to the public referred to preparation last year of the 2011-12 draft annual plan and not the long-term plan that was handled this year.

He said in February last year in a piece he wrote for the Nelson Mail on his first 100 days in office as mayor, that in response to repeated calls over the past few years for a more transparent council, more council workshops had been open to the public since he was elected.

These included, for the first time, the annual plan workshops.

"We have two annual plan workshop processes. The first was held in January-February 2011 for the 2011-12 year. This year's was for the 10-year plan," Mr Miccio said.

He said yesterday that after recent public interest through the media he has decided to run next year's four days of annual plan workshops in public.

"Last year's annual plan which was my first annual plan as mayor I decided to run the workshops open to the public and we were one of the only councils in the country to do so, but unfortunately it wasn't attended by any members of the public or media at all.

"Subsequently this year's workshops were scheduled back in public excluded, but after recent commentary in the media I'm hoping that next year's workshops will generate more interest and get some attendance from the public," Mr Miccio said. He said the purpose of workshops was to set the council's meeting agenda form and content for meetings.

Workshops do not have to be publicly notified.

Mr Beckett has argued it was wrong to accept that workshops could be held with the public excluded, on the grounds that no decisions were made at the informal level of a workshop.

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Mr Miccio stressed that no decisions were made by the council in workshops, that were simply to help "set the agenda" for future meetings.

- The Nelson Mail

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