Wanneroo council looks to live stream meetings

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THE City of Wanneroo will investigate live streaming council meetings so ratepayers can tune in from home, despite a lawyer’s advice it should not be introduced.

Councillor Domenic Zappa put forward the suggestion to introduce live streaming in March 2014, but it was referred back amid concerns about the legal risks.

Five years on, Cr Brett Treby successfully proposed a motion on notice asking administration to investigate live streaming all meetings held in council chambers at the September 24 council meeting.

Wanneroo meetings are already recorded by minute-takers and members of the public can buy a copy or listen to the recording at the Wanneroo Civic Centre.

Legal advice from McLeods Barristers and Solicitors said those recordings should be used to confirm correctness of minutes only and not be published.

The advice raised concerns about the risks for council members debating issues during a meeting, and the challenges when members of the public spoke at meetings.

“The council has no control over their comments, but the recording and live streaming of the proceedings could result in the local government being liable in defamation for the republication of defamatory remarks,” it said.

Cr Treby, who is up for re-election next month, said the advice should be weighed up against public interest.

He said live streaming could increase opportunities for residents to see how the council worked and make meetings accessible for those who could not attend them in person.

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Cr Zappa said he was keen to bring the City up to speed with technology and ensure all residents were informed in the decision-making process.

He said the costs of equipment had decreased over time as the technology improved.

A council report said the cost of buying cameras for video live streaming could range from $26,000 to $42,000 plus $6000 for each extra camera, and recurring costs of $6000 to $15,000 a year and $1000 per streamed event.

Alternatively, it said audio-only equipment could cost $22,000 to $36,000 for equipment initially, with ongoing costs of $5500 to $15,000 a year plus $1000 per streamed event.

Elected members unanimously voted in favour of the motion, including Mayor Tracey Roberts who said she supported it “in the interest of transparency”.

Cr Samantha Fenn said she supported it but had reservations because members of the public who came to meetings to ask questions might not be comfortable with having their comments live streamed.

Cr Dot Newton echoed the concerns, particularly as people had to give their full name and address before asking questions.

Having called for live streaming when he was a State MP in 2016, Cr Paul Miles said he wanted it extended to briefing sessions as well as meetings.