Closed-door council

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Queenstown councillors have mulled over more than 30 issues behind closed doors since the start of the year.

Since mid-January, councillors have attended 11 closed-door workshops covering 35 topics, information released by the council shows.

Subjects included proposed Special Housing Areas, earthquake-prone buildings, parking building design concepts, the town centre masterplan and emergency management.

The latest workshop was held on June 21, and covered the Queenstown Airport noise consul-tation, an economic development update, Project Connect, LGNZ remits, and the council’s committee structure.

Councillor Scott Stevens says he finds workshops “very useful”, but doesn’t believe they’re taking the place of public discussion.

“It’s definitely not a forum for debate or decision-making.”

Councillor Alexa Forbes agrees, saying “the debates don’t happen in workshops, the understanding does”.

“I’m very comfortable with it really.”

A full council meeting held on June 14, which featured 13 agenda items, lasted about 40 minutes.

A Local Government NZ (LGNZ) spokeswoman says LGNZ doesn’t give councils advice about how often they should have workshops.

There’s also no legislation defining rules for workshops.

Workshops are used “extensively” during the early stages of long-term plan development, she says.

“Although there is no requirement to allow access to the public or media at workshops, or to take minutes, councils can do so if they choose.

“The workshops provide an opportunity for councillors to be briefed by officials and have open-ended discussions which are not possible in the formal context of a council meeting.”

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz