The move by the Dubbo Regional Council (DRC) to live stream its monthly meetings is welcome indeed.
It will give residents throughout the local government area the opportunity to see the DRC councillors at work and follow the issues they are dealing with … in real time.
Of course, residents have been able to attend public council meetings in the past. But, that meant physically going to the council chambers.
Family and work commitments may have prevented some attending. Then there is the likelihood that many people have little interest in day-to-day politics and the machinery of government – at a local or national level.
Community turn-outs at meetings have been extremely small unless a big group of people have had an issue to present or protest. On that score, it has been only a few years since a council meeting attracted a big crowd – the 300-plus who turned out to fight the South Dubbo rezoning plan.
But, technology has changed the game. Residents are now able to access a range of electonic devices and programs which bring the world literally to their doorstep or lounge.
So, it is possible for everyone (who wants to) to “attend” meetings even if they cannot make it to the council chambers.
Live streaming of meetings will be of particular benefit to Wellington residents, with the merged council to hold most of its meetings in “distant” Dubbo. And vice versa for Dubbo citizens when DRC meetings are held in Wellington twice a year. Not to mention those in all the villages scattered around the map.
Mayor Ben Shields says he will push for web streaming of meetings to overcome the geographic issues and for transparency.
He says: “The more people who are watching what goes on at meetings, the better.”
It is a good point. More transparency would benefit all residents. Open government is good government.
Will live streaming increase community interest in DRC activities? One only has to look at social media interaction to see the “new town square”.
The DRC needs to engage the community even if that means going out of its way to take democracy to them.
Importantly, costs should not be allowed to be a barrier.
Even if the audience is small at first it is a measure worth pursuing into the future.