New rule is just more cost shifting

By Southern Riverina News

Local councils have slammed a direction from the NSW Government for all councils to livestream council meetings, saying it’s just another example of cost shifting on local government.

While both Berrigan Shire and Murrumbidgee council agree with the concept of livestreaming meetings to improve public access, they say being forced to implement the process is a cost burden they cannot afford.

But they say they are being given no choice.

The NSW Government has said that within the next 12 months it will be mandatory for all NSW councils to make their meetings accessible via webcast.

Berrigan Shire director of corporate services Matt Hansen said it’s not yet clear whether it would be financially feasible for the shire to obey the directive.

‘‘Some of our initial estimates are $10,000 to $20,000; that’s set up and ongoing costs including putting microphones on all of the tables,’’ he said.

‘‘We wonder what number of people who are likely to use it, and whether that’s an efficient use of ratepayer funds.

‘‘We find if people want to be involved in the council meeting they manage to find their way here to participate or read the minutes.

‘‘There’s a whole set of changes being implemented by the government, but the biggest is the livestreaming practice.’’

Murrumbidgee Council Mayor Ruth McRae said if the NSW Government wants to make livestreaming mandatory, it should front the cost.

‘‘It does have some benefits, however there’s costs to setting it up and maintenance, and the government should be paying for it if they will enforce it,’’ Cr McRae said.

‘‘There isn’t a high attendance at our meetings but there is a great platform we have where people can come and speak with us if there’s an issue and have that friendly discussion.’’

Another change recommended in the Model Code of Meeting Practice is to implement an optional time limit on all councillors speaking to five minutes.

Neither council showed interest in enforcing that rule.

‘‘I believe when you meet once a month, that’s the place to have discussion and the forum to thrash out the issues to help create transparency,’’ Cr McRae said.