23 Feb 2021

Invercargill City Council introduces new media protocols

7:54 am on 23 February 2021

The Invercargill City Council is cracking down on councillors commenting on the actions and decisions of their colleagues and staff under new media protocols.

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Photo: 123RF

The council has come under increased government and public scrutiny following reports of in-fighting and a series of Code of Conduct complaints last year.

That sparked an independent review into the council's governance ability and the development of a Project Governance Group.

Councillors will be asked to agree to the new media protocols during today's meeting as part of the group's first report to the council.

A report to council confirms the protocols offer a guide for councillors to support the council's good reputation when speaking with the media.

They include taking a 'no surprises' approach to media, and staff offering official talking points or background information to assist councillors.

"Elected members acknowledge that sometimes the council makes unpopular decisions for the right reasons (e.g. legal requirements, health and safety etc). When this happens, they agree to acknowledge background issues publicly even when they have disagreed with a decision," the report says.

"Elected members agree to focus on council issues and activities when speaking to the media, rather than the actions or decisions of other elected members or staff.

"The media has the ability to shape and influence community views of the organisation and therefore elected members agree the need to take care when sharing views about council decisions or activities."

The Project Governance Group was appointed to oversee the council's action plan to address the findings of the Independent Governance Review, the plan's delivery, and measure progress while keeping stakeholders informed.

The group's update report confirmed it's shifting its focus towards monitoring, measuring and reporting.

"The governance framework for the delivery of council's action plan in response to the Thomson Report is now established and providing good oversight of the Working Groups. A media strategy is in place and key stakeholders are being kept informed of its work. Its next priority is to establish an assessment programme to monitor outcomes," the report said.

The council has pushed back the timing of its report aimed to clarify the deputy mayor's role and responsibilities - the deputy mayor will also be added to the governance group.

"While good progress has been made gathering information, discussions have been held with the mayor, the deputy mayor and the chief executive to find a way forward. The PGG therefore request that this report be presented to the March Council meeting."

In November, the council signed off on a budget of $310,000 for this financial year to address the concerns raised. The original estimate given in September was for $70,000 of unbudgeted spending.

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