While all scheduled physical council and committee meetings have been cancelled for the duration of the lockdown they’re now able to legally held on-line under new rules for digital decision making.
The Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation now allows councillors present via audio visual link to count towards a quorum. Virtual meetings are legally ‘constituted’ if the majority of members are online. Such meetings must be publicly notified and live streamed if possible or at the very least recorded and made available on council websites.
Hastings CEO Nigel Bickle says the region’s leaders are having daily Zoom meetings to keep to keep on top of any changes and concerns during the crisis. The calls involve mayors, HBRC chair, Police, local MPs and ministers, the heads of the Ministry of Social Development and Civil Defence.
All are actively supporting the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group (CDEM) which has overall responsibility for co-ordinating responses.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) has postponed any decisions not essential to business continuity. A number of major projects are on hold including the Tukituki, TANK, Mohaka and Outstanding water bodies plan changes and LiDAR mapping.
All committee meetings have been consolidated into weekly video meetings being live-streamed via its Facebook page.
CEO James Palmer has been given the authority to make “urgent decisions in specified situations” while the current alert levels make actual meetings impractical.
Chief executive Nigel Bickle in consultation with Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst have been given authority to make urgent operational decisions for Hastings which must be reported to council when the crisis is over.
An extraordinary meeting can be called if other urgent decisions need to be made with council members using audio visual systems and where possible live streaming this to the public.
Decisions such as changing rates for example can only be made by full council. Currently, says mayor Hazlehurst, there are no immediate decisions that need to be made by council, although a full meeting will need to be called if the Level 4 status continues beyond the end of April.
Hastings councillors are on call and meeting informally daily via audio visual link to keep updated on what is happening in the district and at council.
Central Hawke’s Bay mayor Alex Walker says her council team is working from the Central Hawke’s Bay Emergency Operations Centre and remain in close collaboration with the Civil Defence Emergency Management Team and Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.
Vital decisions are still being made through audio visual meetings, including annual plan budgets and financial support for council and community recovery, which open for public viewing through social media.
Wairoa District Council will continue to hold ‘remote meeting’ as necessary and work with community and other leaders to ensure essential services are maintained. It will provide updates on its website and Facebook pages.
Updates from HBRC
Napier City Council
Hastings District Council
Wairoa District Council
Central Hawke’s Bay District Council