Why are public records for 2015 and 2016 not available on HDC website?
By our Horowhenua correspondent, Veronica Harrod
Despite declaring the public can “Find almost anything on our website” Horowhenua District Council has excluded the public from accessing agenda and minutes of council meetings for 2015 and 2016 and only allows searches for 2013, 2014 and 2017.
The council has been asked to comment on the two-year gap and its response will be included in an update to this article. Watch this space!
The potential ability to do a search for council agendas and minutes by ‘phrase’ or ‘keyword’, by ‘meeting type’ and ‘by year’ is potentially useful except for the exclusion of public records from 2015 and 2016.
Mystery gap covers part of Mr Duffy’s tenure
The period of time when public records are withheld extends across former mayor Brendan Duffy’s reign. He was unseated by Michael Feyen who was voted in as mayor after the last local body elections held in late 2016.
To access the council agendas and minutes that are publicly available click on the (1) “Council” tab at the top of council’s homepage (2) then click on the “Meeting-Schedules-Requests” box (3) Once you have clicked through to the “Meeting-Schedules-Requests” site on the left hand side is a box which has a (4) link through to the webpage where council meetings, dates, agendas and minutes for 2013, 2014 and 2017 are available through a ‘search by topic’ box.
Where are the crucial agendas and minutes?
But why aren’t the agendas and minutes for 2015 and 2016 publicly available?
It could be argued the maze of links the public has to wade through to even find information on council meetings, agenda’s and minutes acts more like a roadblock than a pathway to democracy.
In total there are three unrelated links and, even then, residents will not necessarily know information about council meetings, agendas, minutes and the potentially useful ‘search by topic’ function can only be reached through the “Meeting-Schedules-Requests” link. And, even then, the information is not on this link it is still another link away!
Try not to be confused
Confused yet? You aren’t the only one. For a brief survey it would be helpful if residents provided their own feedback on whether they would easily be able to find information on council meetings, minutes and agendas on the council website.
Also, would a reasonable person be expected to understand or interpret the term “Meeting-Schedules-Requests” to mean that is where you would go to find information on council meetings, agendas and minutes.
Hoping to find some information on best online design for government organisations to facilitate the practice of democracy I did a brief online search.
What about more public participation in democracy
Although there is a wealth of information on how to enhance public participation and various models of citizen-government interactions I could find none linking to information on best practice website design that facilitates and encourages public participation in democracy.
If there was a template of best webpage practice that encouraged public participation would Horowhenua District Council get a pass mark in this instance?
More information on both these issues will be published when the council responds to our enquiries.