The purpose of the forum is to provide a regular and straightforward opportunity, at the start of all ordinary public meetings of Ōtorohanga District Council or its Community Boards, for members of the community to come along and speak to their elected representatives. This is a reflection of Council’s desire to see more public participation in decision making and meeting procedures.
Members of the public must register their interest to speak at the Public Forum by contacting Council’s Manager Governance ([email protected]) at least two days prior to the meeting, identifying themselves, providing their contact details and the topic(s) on which they wish to speak.
This prior registration enables the Mayor or Chairperson to be aware of the topics being raised, determine speaking time allocations, make a decision on whether the topic is appropriate for presentation at the forum, or arrange for research of the topic if necessary.
The Mayor or Chairperson may decline to let a person speak if the topic is considered to be inappropriate, a repetition of a previous presentation, or is likely to be offensive.
The Public Forum will run for a maximum of 30 minutes in total. Each speaker will, where the number of speakers permits, normally be allocated a maximum of 5 minutes of speaking time.
The Mayor or Chairperson may at his or her discretion adjust the period that any person is allowed to speak but shall ensure that the length of the forum does not exceed 30 minutes.
Only subjects that may be spoken on are those that fall within the terms of reference of the Council or Community Board, over which that body can reasonably have some influence, and which are not the subject of current legal action.
It is desirable not to have people make inefficient use of the Public Forum by raising routine operational matters that would be better addressed directly with Council staff, such as the reporting of faults or damage. The Mayor or Chairperson should deter people from using the forum for this purpose, instead advising them to refer the matter to staff.
The order of speakers will be decided by the Mayor or Chairperson. Speakers will be given the opportunity to speak without interruption for the period allocated to them, unless the Mayor or Chairperson has need to interrupt them for inappropriate conduct.
If a speaker is speaking to a written submission that has been previously circulated to those elected members, the submission will be taken as read. In order to make the best use of the available time the speaker should use the opportunity to emphasise key points rather than reading the entire submission.
Speakers at the Public Forum will be afforded common courtesy and it is expected that this will be reciprocated. If the speaker’s conduct is considered unacceptable in the view of the Mayor or Chairperson they may request the speaker to withdraw any remark, cease speaking or in extreme circumstances request the removal of the speaker from the meeting. Swearing, offensive gestures, threats or other inflammatory language are not acceptable.
The Public Forum is not the place for a person to enter into a debate with elected members, or to make personal attacks against elected members or Council staff. Should a member of the public have concerns about the behaviour or performance of elected members or Council staff, they should raise these matters with the Mayor or Chief Executive at another more appropriate occasion.
At the conclusion of the speaker’s submission the Mayor or Chairperson will ask the elected members present whether they wish to ask questions of clarification of the speaker. The speaker may answer these questions, but may not pose questions to elected members or staff, or enter into a debate. The Mayor or Chairperson will also ensure that elected members do not attempt to enter a debate with the speaker.
It is stressed that the purpose of a Public Forum section is for the public to speak, not elected members.
Once the Public Forum is closed, speakers may remain to hear the remainder of the open public meeting, but they may not participate in discussion.
Deputations and presentations outside of the Public Forum may be made to Council or the Community Boards, but applications for such must be lodged with Council’s Chief Executive at least two days prior to the meeting date, and it is desirable for such applications to be lodged 10 days before the meeting date so that the deputation or presentation can be included in the agenda for the meeting.
Council’s ability to receive deputations and presentations outside of the Public Forum will be determined by the extent of other items on the agenda, and hence the use of the Public Forum may be a simpler and more accessible alternative.