‘Number of challenges’ as council meetings look to open up
LISMORE City Council has committed to having members of the public attend council meetings, in person, as a matter of priority.
Earlier this year, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the council opted to display its meetings online as the public could not attend in person.
Councillor Casson questioned whether COVID-19 restrictions were being used as an excuse to exempt physical public attendance at meetings.
"I ask the question, 'are we using COVID-19 as an excuse to prevent public access?', a COVID-19 plan is easy to develop and implement … it is simple stuff and you can see by the emails we have received that the public want to be included in person," Cr Casson said.
"Democracy is being compromised here."
The requirements do not count councillors and council staff, according to Office of Local Government, which would allow 21 members of the public to attend the council meetings.
Council General Manager Shelley Oldham said the council was working through several problems to enable public attendance at meetings.
"We have a number of challenges … the challenge we have is we also have to apply the 1.5 metre distance rule at this point so if we were to run a council meeting it is very difficult to get the 1.5 metre distance rule between us and get the cameras to pick us up for live-streaming," Ms Oldham said.
"The other challenge we have is what do we do when we reach capacity with the numbers of public … we haven't been able to develop a way that is fair or supports the notions of democracy.
"It is not as simple as one would think and if you look at the other councils, they're having their troubles as well."
The motion to ensure council get the public attending meetings as soon as they are able too was passed by unanimous vote.