Tech-wary councillors hedge their bets

03:00, Dec 04 2013

New Plymouth district councillors are not quite ready to immerse themselves in the digital age despite leading the country in broadcasting their meetings on the internet.

Councillors yesterday decided against adopting iPad tablet computers en masse to save printing costs.

Instead the councillors, who range in age from low 40s to high 60s, will individually decide to receive their agendas and reports digitally or in paper form.

Inglewood's toy-making councillor Richard Jordan nearly fell off his chair in surprise when he saw the way the decision was going.

"I'm astounded that we are not going 100 per cent digital. It is the way of the future.

"It's astonishing to me that we are considering that we are going to retain paper," he said.

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The idea to move to iPads was to save on printing costs. Meeting agendas cost around $10 to print and send to councillors. Often they receive multiple copies, leading to significant paper waste.

Though 15 iPads would cost $13,215 to buy, it was calculated they would save $15,513 in printing costs over the councillors' three-year terms.

It would also mean the council would not have to supply councillors with computers and printers, at a potential cost of $18,000.

Councillors Heather Dodunski, Craig McFarlane, and Mayor Andrew Judd had all been part of an iPad trial. Somewhat tellingly, none was using an iPad to read the meeting agenda last night.

However non-trial councillors Shaun Biesiek and Murray Chong, who were, ardently supported the technology.

Mr Chong said he liked the iPad as he could receive email feedback from people watching the meeting online.

"Which is exactly why we shouldn't have them," said councillor Marie Pearce, reasoning it was not a good look for councillors to appear distracted during a meeting.

Richard Handley, one of the older councillors, assured his colleagues using iPads was not too difficult. Three of the organisations he worked for sent out agendas in electronic format only. "It's not hard."

Three years ago New Plymouth District Council became one of the first councils in the country to stream all its meetings live over the internet.

Taranaki Daily News