Eurobodalla Shire Council no longer webcasts public forum

The Eurobodalla Shire Council has voted in a new Code of Meeting Practice that involves not live-streaming public forum. File picture.
The Eurobodalla Shire Council has voted in a new Code of Meeting Practice that involves not live-streaming public forum. File picture.

Eurobodalla Shire Council will no longer webcast public forum after voting in a new Code of Meeting Practice.

Public forum, held at the start of each meeting, enables community members to address agenda items.

General Manager Catherine Dale said the Office of Local Government (OLG) recommended the changes and public forum was not part of the council's decision-making process.

However Councillor Pat McGinlay said the new draft added barriers for the public to interact with council, and proposed several amendments.

Cr Anthony Mayne said webcasting public forum enhanced public engagement for housebound people, those with disabilities and the media who could not attend, and said removing it was a backward step.

Eight members of the public also spoke against the move to stop webcasting at the meeting.

Public forum speaker Peter Cormick said it was not in the public's best interests to deny access to webcast the public forum.

"(The council) needs to move forward, not backwards; to become much, much more open - and proactively so," Mr Cormick said.

Mayor Liz Innes said her decision to vote against the webcast came down to "responsibilities and code of conduct".

"(Councillors) should not knowingly deceive, defame or bring council into disrepute," she said.

"The same code of conduct does not apply to members of the community who address council in this chamber in public forum."

She said there was a disappointing trend by a small group of presenters who abused the opportunity to engage with councillors and instead used it to "harass, bully, make defamatory comments and continuously promote misinformation, and to also make defamatory and derogatory comments continuously about members of our staff".

She said the council would continue to provide members of the community the opportunity to engage with councillors through public forum, community consultation, engagement and submissions.

Councillors voted 7-2 against Cr McGinlay's amendment and it was lost.

Public access sessions would be held once a month.

Number of views of the council's archived and live webcast meetings in 2017-2018.

Number of views of the council's archived and live webcast meetings in 2017-2018.

A motion to adopt the new code was passed, and council will stop streaming public forum from June 25.

During 2017-18, 45 community members addressed the council during public access sessions, and 72 community members spoke in public forum on agenda items.

In 2018, 736 people watched the livestream and archived council meetings - including both council meetings and public forum - in February, 328 in March, 313 in April, 95 in May and 188 in June.

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