Opinion

Local engagement could be enhanced by live streaming

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

The decision to push local councils to introduce live streaming of council meetings is a step in the right direction, and should ensure heightened transparency and engagement.

However, it seems while this is being enforced by the NSW Government, it’s the local councils who have to pay for it to be achieved.

The impact of gradual cost shifting has seen local councils progressively foot the bill for areas which once upon a time may never have been under their care.

While this has meant councils have needed to cover these costs, it also means they have progressively needed to look after the provision of more areas.

Elsewhere, councils have taken on increased advocacy efforts, more often being the ones to lobby to state and federal governments for funding, championing local projects.

What this all means is that the spectre of what councils look after as their core business — roads, rates and rubbish — has now broadened markedly.

What this also means is that arguably there has never been a more important time for the workings of local councils to be able to be engaged with and for ‘democracy at work’ to be on show.

Victoria has, over the last few years, seen live streaming increasingly introduced.

Teething issues aside, by and large the opportunity to watch meetings from the comfort of home or the office only ensures more interest in the workings of local government.

One imagines the same could be the case for councils such as Edward River, Berrigan and Murray River.

Local council meeting attendance can be wildly sporadic, often depending on the noisiness and level of interest in a single issue being considered.

Live streaming has the potential to remove barriers to those who may wish to, but not be able to, attend a meeting, to ask a question, or witness the outcome of a decision that impacts them.

The other factor here is the times that some of our local council meetings are held; on weekdays, during work hours.

This all but prohibits those with Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 jobs, from attending.

Concerns are sure to remain about creating further demands of local councils in a climate where some may say live streaming of council meetings is anything but a priority. These are valid.

But in the interests of council engagement and transparency, live streaming could prove an easy and beneficial step to put in place.