A growing number of councils are embracing change and have launched a live streaming service for council meetings to increase transparency and public participation.
The live streaming service for local councils allows the public to view meetings more accessibly, by watching live from their computer or following the broadcast through archived footage of the meetings.
At least 12 councils have begun live streaming their meetings for the public, the trend starting with Taupo District Council which streamed their first meeting in 2010.
Whanganui District Council Online Communications Officer Joe Salmon says the Council began live streaming in December 2016 and is already seeing improved engagement. The inaugural live stream reached a total of 1,400 unique views and each live stream currently attracts an average of 1,050 views, with an additional 150 views of the archived recordings.
The public opinion has been positive with many commenting on the how the live streams have been great for democracy and transparency.
“Live streaming provides a low-risk and accessible way for members of the public to take part in these meetings and familiarise themselves with how our councils make decisions,” Mr Salmon says.
Members of the local councils are also enjoying the positive impact live streaming has created, as people are able to contribute to the discussions at the council table via social media, he says.
The addition of live streaming to the meetings has also proved to be successful in Auckland. Principal Advisor Democracy Services Warwick McNaughton of Auckland Council says the public gallery has been doubled and occasionally tripled through online viewers. After a year of live streaming, Auckland Council reached its highest recorded number of 2,927 views in February 2016.
“We now see more people engaging with council meetings – viewing and commenting on the council’s social media pages,” Mr McNaughton says.
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says local government is committed to being open and accessible.
“For people to be able to engage more freely with their local council is an important step towards furthering transparency and public involvement, taking meetings online is one way of making it easier for this to happen and we encourage more council, to look into doing this,” Mr Yule says.