Public holidays blamed for council's late start

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:46 31/01/2013

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The Nelson City Council's two-month gap in public meetings was the result of the amount of work done prior to Christmas and scheduling around a week where two public holidays fell, Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said.

City councillors resume their meetings schedule on Monday, February 11, when four days of draft annual plan workshops begin.

City council meetings re-started last year on January 31, followed by a workshop on February 2.

Mr Miccio said the later start was partly because of when Nelson Anniversary and Waitangi Day fall.

However, the Tasman District Council, which is within the Nelson province and shares the same anniversary, resumed public meetings on January 24 when its environment and planning committee met, followed by a meeting today of its corporate services committee.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne confirmed Tasman still recognised the public holiday in Nelson, and would be conducting council business next week between the two statutory holidays on Monday and Wednesday.

Long-serving city councillors Paul Matheson and Derek Shaw believed the two-month gap between public meetings was "fairly normal" and was likely to have happened through the difficulty in getting a "full muster" of councillors before anniversary weekend.

But councillor Ian Barker said it was "absolutely extraordinary", and was "symptomatic of the way the council has gone in the last few years with its decision-making".

Mr Miccio said it was "always complicated in Nelson" by anniversary day and Waitangi day being so close.

"Councils across the country are able to set their own workshops and council meeting timetables that suit their decision-making agendas."

Mr Miccio said Nelson had a cycle of meetings that began in the new year and ended before Christmas. Meetings and workshops on the 2013-14 draft annual plan finished a little later in 2012, which allowed the council to delay the start of annual plan workshops and council meetings until after Nelson anniversary weekend.

Councillors' other duties had been ongoing throughout January, Mr Miccio said.

Mr Matheson, a former long-serving mayor, said he could not recall such a lengthy hiatus in council meetings, but he was not overly concerned.

"It's a bit unusual - I expected to be back mid-January. It's been a long break, except for those councillors in other work."

Mr Matheson said councillors' work had still been ticking over.

Mr Shaw said the schedule had been partly determined by the fact Nelson Anniversary and Waitangi Day breaks fell in the same week this year, and a number of councillors had indicated that they were going to be away.

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Mr Barker said it was "not as if we haven't got a lot to do", and that it was a result of the dilution of control over the way meetings were held. He said councils all around the country were well under way with their meeting schedule.

- The Nelson Mail

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