Horowhenua Council fails transparency test on making 1015 records internet friendly
By Horowhenua correspondent Veronica Harrod
Agendas and minutes of Horowhenua District Council meetings in 2016 will now be made available on the Council website — but not those for 2015.
Announcing this, rhe Council says changes have been made to the website making it easier for the public to find information about meetings.
KIN says the ability to search for council agendas and minutes by year is potentially useful.
But unfortunately this excludes public records from years which extend almost entirely across former Mayor Brendan Duffy’s time in office.
He was unseated by Michael Feyen who was voted in as mayor in late 2016.
Council communications advisor Trish Hayward says: “The reason agendas and minutes published prior to January 2016 are not available online is that council’s website was redeveloped in 2016 and a decision was taken at the time to provide agendas and minutes online from January 2016 onwards but not retrospectively.
Council ‘open’ to reconsidering the decision
“Council is open to reconsidering this decision if there is sufficient public demand to warrant the investment of staff time, data storage and other resources required to make agendas and minutes prior to January 2016 available electronically.
“To our knowledge, over the past year there have been fewer than five requests for agendas and minutes prior to January 2016.”
Key questions for the Horowhenua Council
But, KIN asks, if ‘a decision was taken’ to provide agendas and minutes from 2016 onwards it begs the questions:
(1) Why was this decision made and by who?
(2) Why haven’t the agenda and minutes for 2016 therefore been available?
(3) Why, if the decision was made only to make agendas and minutes from 2016 available, are the agenda and minutes for 2013 and 2014 publicly available online?
Essentially, what is it in the 2015 agendas and minutes that council does not want to make available to the public?
However, we have sent a follow-up email seeking clarity from the council — a line has to be drawn in the sand on this matter.
Is there duplicity?
Despite an effort to represent the council’s position, I think the continuing lack of clarity indicates a degree of duplicity.
The exclusion of certain minutes includes the agenda and minutes from the infamous November 2, 2016 council meeting (Mayor Michael Feyen’s first as mayor) when councillor Wayne Bishop moved, seconded by Cr Barry Judd, that council does not support the intention of Mayor Feyen for the financial books to be opened. Nine councillors voted in favour of the motion.
One of the reasons Mayor Feyen was elected was that he made a promise the financial books of the council would be opened up for scrutiny by the public as many residents and ratepayers are concerned about projects ratepayer money is spent on and spiralling debt levels.
But this obviously doesn’t include the 2015 minutes, even though Council expects to make the 2016 agenda and minutes available by the end of the week.