The business of local boards has kept going during alert level 4 thanks to technology, with several boards across Auckland conducting their regular business meetings remotely over Skype for Business.
It follows the closure of all council facilities - including local board offices and civic centres, and the requirement to work from home and for social distancing. A recording or written summary of the remote meetings is being made available as soon as possible after the meeting takes place.
In addition, public input and deputations into business meetings will be enabled to join through Skype for Business.
Louise Mason, Auckland Council General Manager, Local Board Services, says that the move to Skype meetings has played an important role in enabling the local boards to continue their business.
“We needed to ensure that we were able to continue the work of the local boards within the constraints of the lockdown rules. As a council, we were already able to utilise Skype for Business so that meetings could continue remotely.
“The challenge has been how we ensure the governance function of the local boards could be maintained while still providing for open, transparent and democratic decision-making, by enabling the public to be able to view and input into the meetings.
“So, we are pleased that the public will still be able to present to the local boards via the Skype for Business function.
Ms Mason says it is not practical to provide a live streaming service for local board meetings at this stage.
“This isn’t a perfect solution and we will be on a learning curve as we go, but in facing the challenge of COVID-19 and to keep business going, we had to think outside the box and use the available technology to come up with a solution.
“With 21 local boards, it would be challenging to provide live streaming for the public that happens through the Governing Body and other council committees of the whole, as there isn’t the capacity or the budget to do this,’ she says.
“It does provide us with a platform to start from and it does show the potential for us to use other technologies going forward.
“Some local boards are investigating ways to broadcast onto Facebook and other online platforms, but for now, we are ensuring that the meetings are recorded, and are posted onto the council website so the public will be able to view the discussions that happened.
“Overall, we are pleased that we are still able to provide a service to the public and want to continue to encourage them to get in touch with their local board if they would like to input into the meetings.”
You can view recorded meetings and written summaries here.