Redland City Council halts public participation as councillors given option to attend general meetings remotely

COVID CHANGES: Redland City Council has paused public participation and is allowing councillors to join general meetings remotely.
COVID CHANGES: Redland City Council has paused public participation and is allowing councillors to join general meetings remotely.

REDLAND City Council has again paused public participation, while allowing councillors to attend general meetings remotely.

A council spokesman said health and safety amid the Omicron surge was behind the decision to halt public participation and it would be brought back when officers advised it was safe to do so.

"Public participation in council meetings is not a legislated requirement so council is able to decide to close meetings to the public, as we have done at the moment ...," he said.

"General meetings will continue to be recorded. Every attempt will be made to make this video available on council's website by close of business on the day the meeting took place."

Meetings were re-opened for public participation in May last year and that continued up until the last sitting in December.

Mark Edwards was the only councillor to join last week's meeting remotely, but said many more were due to follow suit before last minute changes.

Discussions at the meeting included the Southern Thornlands Potential Future Growth Area, an application for a subdivision at Haig Road and creating an Olympic legacy working group.

"I think as COVID turns into endemic, things will go back to the way they were," Cr Edwards said.

"It is like all businesses where staff are sick and they are trying to work remotely.

"It is trying to take the pressure off the health system, that's the main thing."

A council spokesman said legislation allowed for councillors to join the meeting remotely.

"Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, councillors have the choice to attend the council meeting in person or join the meeting remotely should they need or prefer to isolate at home during this pandemic," he said.

Cr Edwards said it was possible that more councillors could call into the next meeting on February 16, but hoped the current COVID spike would flatten so they could all attend in person.

"With a general meeting, my preference is that you are physically there," he said.

"[The technology] is just one of the tools in our arsenal, but at the end of the day, I don't think it is going to be able to replace being there in person.

"I wouldn't like to see it as a permanent thing, and by being able to see people, you pick up how they are thinking about different things."

Cr Edwards believed the technology would be useful for other purposes, including workshops.

"I have done [Microsoft] Teams meetings with officers about what is happening in the city or in my division," he said.

"It makes it so much easier because you don't have to rely on everybody meeting up in one spot.

"I think it provides more productivity."

The council did not respond to a question about how many staff had been required to isolate for COVID reasons in the past month.

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