The Herald reports:
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick was “unlawful” when she decided a discussion on Rotorua’s controversial Māori wards bill would be held confidentially, two public law experts believe.
Chadwick not only tried to end one person one vote in Rotorua, but tries do do it behind closed doors.
Public law expert and lawyer Graeme Edgeler told Local Democracy Reporting, in his opinion, there were several issues with the proceedings in Thursday’s council meeting.
He said Chadwick should have put to a vote whether to add the urgent item to the agenda and to have the discussion in confidential.
He believed Chadwick was also incorrect when she told the meeting she did not need to put moving the discussion into confidential to a vote as she could rule it as chairwoman.
Mayors are not dictators. They have no power to unilaterally decide these things.
In the meeting Chadwick cited the reason for the discussion being held in secret as “to enable us all as council, together, to have a free and frank discussion in response to the Attorney-General’s request for information needed to develop policy work”.
Edgeler said, in his view, that was not a lawful reason to put a meeting into confidential as “free and frank discussion” was explicitly excluded under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
“I don’t believe they [the council] lawfully excluded the public, I don’t believe they ever tried to lawfully exclude the public and the reason they gave to exclude the public isn’t a lawful one.”
Victoria University of Wellington public law expert Dr Dean Knight broadly agreed with Edgeler.
Luckily for Chadwick she is retiring so she can’t be voted out.
He said the standing order it pertained to was 9.13 – “discussion of a minor matter not on the agenda”.
I love how they regard ending equality of suffrage in their district as a minor matter!