The attendance record of Nelson City councillors has been laid bare but not all are in agreement as to how much importance should be placed on it.
Councillors aren’t obliged to attend all meetings, as they are appointed to specific committees at the beginning of the council term – but they are given the opportunity to attend all meetings.
According to the latest meeting figures from Nelson City Council, from June 2018 until June 2019, only one councillor had a 100 per cent attendance rate – Mel Courtney.
Mel says meetings are something councillors must place as a top priority.
“The public place enough trust in us to manage this huge organisation. You must follow through on the commitment. You can’t just have it on the side, you’ve got to be on the job.”
Gaile Noonan also had zero apologies but was on a leave of absence for four of her meetings.
Most councillors had an average of two apologies – including Matt Lawrey, Ian Barker, Brian McGurk and Mike Rutledge. Bill Dahlberg, Stuart Walker and Tim Skinner had three.
Both deputy mayor Paul Matheson and mayor Rachel Reese had five apologies while Rachel did not attend a further 11 meetings over the year because of other council commitments.
Luke Acland, who is the only councillor with a full-time job, entered six apologies over the year with another six ‘did not attends’ with no apology given – although he told Nelson Weekly some councillors “continually refused” to accept his apologies.
“The regretful thing is, the attendance record and ‘apologies’ have become a point scoring exercise,” he says.
Kate Fulton, who only had one apology throughout the year, believes although meeting attendance is important, it’s not a reflection of the work put in.
“It’s not an appropriate measure. The more committees you are on the more meetings you must attend. Some councillors are on more committees than others. Some are on more working parties and then there’s a lot of things we’re doing behind the scenes.”
She also says not all meetings are the same.
“One meeting I attended was only two minutes long. Some are rescheduled last minute – which can be hard for those councillors with work and family commitments.”
Kate was one of the only councillors to attend meetings via audio link. This has been an option for councillors this past term and she says it’s necessary if we want a range of people on council.
“I had an out-of-town family emergency, but I was at no disadvantage. I was totally engaged and could follow everything clearly.
“If we want a want a diverse table, we need to support other councillors commitments.”