Residents to attend Coffs Harbour City Council meetings from March

A public gallery may soon resume at Coffs Harbour City Council meetings, with Council investigating the return of resident attendance at fortnightly Council meetings. Photo: Emma Darbin.


LOCAL residents may be able to attend fortnightly Coffs Harbour City Council meetings some time this month, with Council investigating COVID-safe solutions to allow the return of the public gallery.

Online broadcasts of the Council meetings will continue even after the public gallery is fully back, as providing online live access was a Council resolution prior to COVID, and has been done since 2017.

The Office of Local Government is providing Council with guidance on the return of the public gallery at Council meetings.

Under Office of Local Government directives issued in September 2020, Council has the ability to continue to hold official meetings electronically until 25 March 2021.

Also under this circular to councils, councillors and council staff may attend council meetings in person, and councils must allow councillors and staff to attend and participate in meetings by audio-visual links where it is reasonably practicable to do so.

Members of the public are also permitted to attend Council meetings, however, councils must not allow persons to attend a meeting if the size of the meeting venue is insufficient to ensure there is four square metres of space for each person attending the meeting.

Where councils exclude members of the public from meetings, they must livestream their meetings using audio-visual links to satisfy requirements under the Local Government Act for members of the public to be permitted to “attend” meetings.

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said virtual meetings have been instrumental in ensuring the State’s 128 councils continue to function, while minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“With councillors debating and determining important community issues at council meetings, it’s been vital that this decision making process has continued,” Ms Hancock said.

“During the height of the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of the State’s 128 local councils held virtual meetings, with many councils still choosing to meet electronically.

“Important public access to electronic meetings is guaranteed with councils required to livestream them so local residents can tune in and keep a recording online for at least 12 months.”



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