In the last days of preparing the Four Five Hundred for launch, we took time to watch the first hour of the first meeting of the new Whanganui District Council… from the comfort of the office.
The council livestreamed a meeting for the first time on November 8 so we can all share in the tedium of local body politics.
Grab the popcorn.
1.00pm: Lights, camera, action. The feed works.
1.02pm: Mayor Hamish McDouall announces the live stream to the council and to the world.
“There’s a few changes for those regular ticket holders who come a long and watch and those regular councillors,” he says.
“It’s my intention to live stream all council meetings or the parts which are in public.”
The streaming of council meetings is not new. It happens in other councils around the country but it was called for during the election campaign.
1.03pm: McDouall is teaching councillors how to speak into the microphones.
“Banana not ice cream,” he says, showing councillors where to hold the mic. Banana is good. Ice cream is bad.
“We do want everybody in Whanganui – well, everybody tuning in throughout the world– I know they are tuning in throughout the world– we want them to hear it.”
1.04pm: Who are these people? There are 14 of them online. Someone comments it’s hard to hear. This is progress, says another.
1.06pm: It’s out of sync but the production is actually quite good. The cameras, zoom and pan. There’s wide shots and cuts. Each speaker can be seen clearly. Even the agenda items are shown on the screen so people can read what is being talked about.
1.11pm: Nineteen people watching.
1.15: New councillor Murray Cleveland has been sworn in and council is now getting an update on the port revitalisation project – the proposal to turn Whanganui Port into a hub for industry and recreational activity.
The council later announced a memorandum of understanding with Q-West Boatbuilders that they would move to the revamped port as an anchor tenant.
1.26pm: Twenty-one people watching. Still talking about the port. “This is very much a process where we are building upon people’s feedback.”
1.43pm: The councillors time to speak. Josh Chandulal-Mackay asks if the port revitalisation ties in with the Castlecliff Rejuvenation project.
Special projects manager Rowan McGregor: “We’ve been in contact with the people involved in the Castlecliff Rejuvenation and councillors Jenny (Duncan) was at the meeting with the recreational community groups.
1.49pm: The number of live viewers has peaked for the first hour at forty-two. Marine Consultant Phil Wardale says the master plan and business case for the port redevelopment should be ready in December.
“We need to deliver this quite promptly to meet some deadlines that are built upon business requirements.”
1.57pm: Alright, time to sign off. Work to be done.
But as dry as council business can be and as slow as it moves, the broadcasting of council meetings is an important move. It allows people to see who says what, how they say, how decisions are made and the general conduct of council. A win for local democracy. Also, a reminder to councillors that every second of their time in chamber is now recorded and available to be recalled later.
*As of Thursday November 9 the feed had 1600 views.