In the forthcoming edition of BayBuzz Digest (watch for it this week), I discuss the election-year phenomenon in which all candidates enthusiastically endorse more efficient and responsive local government … if only we just put them at the controls!

My article, Promising Good Government, discusses a number of issues — amalgamation, holding companies, over-use of public-excluded sessions and “workshops” — that voters should get their heads around … and then demand convincing positions from candidates.

I hope you’ll read the entire article here. But here’s a preview of one idea I think could make a big difference in “lifting the bar” for Council debate and decision-making … Council Cam.

Council Cam is not an original or far-fetched idea … it’s already in practice at the Lake Taupo District Council.

Council Cam is simply the live web-streaming of Council sessions over the internet. Of course, broadband internet access is the key.

How open might our local councils be to this?

The Hastings Council once turned down my request to videotape a council session at my own expense (the occasion was the infamous “go/no go” sports park debate, with Sam Kelt as ringmaster). The powers-that-be  — scholars of the sacred Standing Orders — decided that I (i.e., BayBuzz) was not entitled to videotape, but ultimately conceded that I was “allowed” to audiotape the session, which I did … talk about an archive of unkept promises!

Hey, we can get webcam “eye candy” of Napier’s coast on the Napier Council site, why not something really useful?

Sitting through hundreds of hours of council sessions, it’s plain to me that councillors try to “raise their game” when the media is on hand. Imagine if they thought they were being recorded for posterity. And, worse, what if constituents might actually be watching live on their computers! What a challenge that would be for those who rarely contribute, who pontificate, who seem chronically unprepared, or who are simply under-qualified. There’s not a doubt in my mind that streaming video of council sessions would separate the wheat from the chaff … and reveal which emperors have no clothes.

For that reason, alas, council webcasts of more than HB scenery are unlikely in our lifetime. Unless we demand it.

I have no illusion that thousands of ratepayers will glue themselves to their computer screens to watch scintillating debates over carparks. But some will, and they’ll start talking about what they saw and heard, and pretty soon you’ll begin hearing conversations in cafes and pubs about the smart ones, the clueless ones, the hard-working ones, the followers, the ones who ask the tough questions … the ones who seem most often to represent what the community is thinking.

Before you know it — for better or worse — councillors would no longer be anonymous, and no longer free to say whatever they wish about their performance come election time.

Council Cam … let’s go for it!

Tom Belford

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  1. Great idea – if you are brave enough to tune into channel 94 and submit yourself to torture and embarrassment then you could do the same thing with your (your – being the operative word) local body. Maybe the first step in opening up the Citadel.

  2. "…which emporers have no clothes."

    That is indeed the stuff of some coucillor's nightmares, being viewed totally exposed before the entire public. But why not, if we pay for a circus then let us at least see the clowns.

    In full support of Council Cam.

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