Residents will no longer have to brave Ballarat’s cold nights to understand what’s happening in local government, with City of Ballarat giving livestreaming of meetings the green light.
All seven councillors present at Wednesday night’s ordinary council meeting approved a recommendation to begin livestreaming meetings, with an estimated $16,000 set-up cost for cameras and technology.
Councillor Belinda Coates, who moved the motion, said it would increase transparency and quality of debate, and give residents a full representation of “exactly is what said” in council chambers.
Thirty-two per cent of Victorian councils – including Bendigo and Ararat – currently livestream or broadcast public meetings.
In 2016, livestreaming local government meetings became a recommendation of the Victorian Ombudsman following the Investigation into the transparency of local government decision making report.
While supporting the motion, councillor Grant Tillett said he was concerned the video feed could lead to councillors being “coached” through the meeting via email by someone at home.
He also stated it was important that the meetings are “formally recorded and are kept by council for posterity”, in case anyone accused City of Ballarat staff or councillors of defamatory speech.
"While these public meetings are open, most people haven’t been to a council meeting before ... This opens up a world of opportunity for people who have barriers to attending in person."City of Ballarat councillor Belinda Coates
The option chosen by councillors provides council officers the ability to edit an archived recording after the meeting, to remove any inappropriate comments or actions captured on tape.
Councillor Amy Johnson said it was a progressive idea to “engage the community”, as people are “completely in the dark of what happens in council meetings”.
The push to livestream or broadcast council meetings re-entered the council chamber on May 2, when Cr Coates lodged a notice of motion for the city to adopt livestreaming.
Cr Coates’ motion was voted down 6-3, but an alternative motion by councillor Ben Taylor succeeded in returning a report to council on the costs and liabilities of livestreaming.
Mayor Samantha McIntosh said livestreaming was a transparent approach, but said it had not succeeded earlier without costings or alternative options, because it was not right to “jump into it on the night without seeing the different models”.
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