Making the most of Public Access

The June Council meeting approved a revised Code of Meeting Practice, to incorporate both mandatory and non-mandatory provisions of the State Government’s new Code of Meeting Practice.

The most obvious change to meeting procedures is that all votes, not just for planning matters, will have to be decided by a show of hands.

Another important change is to the Public Access Guidelines, to increase the number of possible speakers on particular topics being brought before Council on the following night.

Instead of the number of individual speakers being limited to 10, there are now 10 speaking slots (which can be shared by people).

The disadvantage of the limit of 10 speakers was demonstrated at the July Public Access, when the Kiama-Jamberoo RSL applied too late to speak about keeping the ANZAC logo on the Lighthouse.

“The previous Code of Meeting Practice could have resulted in a maximum of three items being discussed and public access being limited to 25 minutes,” says General Manager Kerry McMurray.

The change gives The Bugle a chance to shine a light on the rules governing this important opportunity, which are not known about as commonly as they should be.

Public Access provides community groups, members of the community or their representatives (eg. lawyers, town planners) an opportunity to verbally plead their case with councillors before a decision is made.

It must relate to an item listed in the Business Papers for that month’s meeting, which include development applications, policy positions, planning changes, spending decisions or any other wide variety of issues that need endorsement by Council.

Public Access is scheduled for 5pm on the Monday before the Council Meeting (usually on the 3rd Tuesday of each month), and can last
up to 90 minutes. When holidays fall on that Monday, Public Access is held prior to the Tuesday meeting, at 5pm.

Individuals or groups must register to speak at Public Access by calling 4232 0402 between 9.30am on the Friday before the meeting and 3pm on the Monday of Public Access (or three days before a Special meeting; or by 11am on the Tuesday when the Monday is a holiday). Slots are limited to a maximum of five minutes in their presentations.

It is a case of first in best dressed when allocating spots on the speaking schedule, so best to register as soon as you know the matter is in that month’s Business Papers.

This timing is notified to people who have made submissions on DAs, but those following other issues need to be vigilant when the Business Papers are posted on Council’s website (usually the Thursday before the Council meeting).

You do not have to have made a submission on a matter to apply for a slot.
The new rules provide for a maximum of ten speaking slots, with a limit of one slot supporting and one slot opposing an item (the opponent always speaks first).

It is permissible for the slot to include multiple speakers, to be negotiated with the person first obtaining the slot. If someone has a slot ‘against’ an item, it doesn’t mean a spot is held for the ‘for’ argument.

The Mayor has the right to limit the number of presentations in total, or the number of presentation on any one issue, to avoid duplication of points of view.

Unless arranged beforehand, the presentations will be streamed live on Council’s website.

Other rules include:

  • presentations are made verbally. PowerPoint images can be used to support the case.
  • no new information is to be introduced when speaking about DAs
  • written material is not to be circulated at the meeting, but can be circulated to councillors by staff if it is lodged with them before 4pm on the day of the meeting.

At the end of each five minute speaking slot, councillors are allowed to ask questions of the speakers.

The matters dealt with in Public Access are dealt with first at the Council Meeting.

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