Is it time for Councillors to Get Back To Work
During this period of Covid our Councillors have been enjoying their bi-weekly briefings held each Tuesday via Zoom before they then regather the following Tuesday for their Zoom Council meeting. The meetings, if you can call them that, are embarrassingly short with most only just reaching the half hour mark. There are few if any Questions on Notice, barely a Notice of Motion raised and only the token Mayoral Minutes that are designed more as marketing tools to fill the near empty vacuum that has become a Council meeting. The agendas have become so stunningly boring that it is clear that the Councillors, at $1000 per meeting, are simply there to rubberstamp staff recommendations. At least the staff are working, if not remotely, during these Covid times. But now it is time for our generally feckless Councillors to come out from under the doona and actually do what they were voted to do - ACT and REPRESENT the community. For the past 12 months they have done little of either and with 12 months still ahead before the next Council election it might be time they did something admirable. The 25th of September marks the sixth month period that the Minister for Health and Medical Research, the Hon. Brad Hazzard MP, had issued restricting gatherings in indoor spaces exceeding 100 persons. At the time he also ordered amendments be made to the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) allowing councils to meet remotely to assist them to manage the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus at their meetings and to ensure compliance with the Public Health Order. The good Minister has decided, however, to extend that period now to March 2021 and under Section 747A provide that during the prescribed period, a requirement for councillors or others to attend a meeting is satisfied if the meeting is held in whole or in part remotely using audio visual links. Under the Order Councillors and council staff may attend council and committee meetings in person. However, councils must continue to allow councillors and staff to attend and participate in meetings by audio visual links where it is reasonably practicable to do so.
Members of the public are permitted to attend meetings. However, councils must not allow persons to attend a meeting if the size of the meeting venue is insufficient to ensure there is 4 square metres of space for each person attending the meeting.
Councillors and council staff are not to be counted when calculating the space available for each person at the meeting venue and the number of persons who are attending a meeting.
Where councils exclude members of the public from meetings, they must livestream their meetings using audio-visual links to satisfy the requirement under section 10 of the Act for members of the public to be permitted to “attend” meetings. Let's see if Eurobodalla Councillors come out from under their Doona of DoNothing as there are many issues to bring to the table and not have dispensed with behind closed doors.