The ombudsman's call to open council workshops is a "hard nut to crack", a Western Bay of Plenty councillor says.
The Western Bay of Plenty District Council closed all its workshops to the public for the period 1 July, 2022 to 20 November, 2023.
Councillor Rodney Joyce said he did not like workshops and they were used "way too much".
"The ombudsman is trying to crack a hard nut."
The council had started putting workshop minutes into meeting agendas for people to see, Joyce said.
"We're on the right path now, towards more openness."
However, there were still some detailed matters that needed to be "thrashed out" in private, he said.
In October, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier reprimanded councils for closing workshops by default - a practice he called "unreasonable".
Boshier called for councils to open workshops to reduce the perception that decisions were being made behind closed doors.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council held 18 closed workshops between 1 July and 20 November 2023, and another 25 from 1 July 2022, and 30 June 2023.
Council governance manager Greer Golding said there were no workshops held in public.
Asked if any of the minutes or notes from workshops had been made public, Golding said none had been.
"It is council's intention going forward to include workshop notes on subsequent committee agendas."
Joyce said all the councillors were very clear about the 'no decisions to be made in workshops' rule.
The council needed to take the public along with them in the decision-making process and workshops did not do that, he said.
Councillor Anne Henry agreed: "Workshops have their place, but I do believe we need to be showing the process of our decision making through our meetings."
There needed to be a balance between transparent decision making and time for the councillors to nut out some of the harder issues, she said.
The public could also be brutal, Henry said.
"The public need to really realise if they want to have good politicians, they need to not be so brutal and give the people the opportunity to talk through the issues."
Mayor James Denyer said Boshier's review was "surprisingly" wide-ranging and went further than most expected.
There were cost implications if all of the recommendations were adopted, with more staff likely required, Denyer said.
"We're happy to move towards being more open and transparent. But where that finally lands and what is actually being asked for is a little bit unclear at the moment."
Denyer said it would be possible to open up some workshops to the public but some issues were commercially sensitive or involved privacy issues.
Elected members could also behave differently when they were being observed publicly, Denyer said.
"Sometimes you get more speeches and a less free-flowing discussion.
"Having an ability to speak freely is a valuable one."
Councillor Don Thwaites said more could be done in the open.
"That would be a good thing, I believe, because it would actually help everyone's understanding of the matter.
"If there's more research needed, or the facts aren't fully there, that's when they tend to be directed towards workshops."
Asked if he thought long-term and annual plan workshops could be held in the open like Tauranga City Council had done, Thwaites said it would be a good idea.
"[It would] bring people up to date on the pressures that exist."
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.