Byron Shire Councillor Basil Cameron outside the council chambers in Mullumbimby.
Byron Shire Councillor Basil Cameron outside the council chambers in Mullumbimby.

Council reopens public gallery at meetings after COVID ban

IT HAD been months since the public had been able to sit in on Byron Shire Council meetings.
But the chambers in Mullumbimby were once again open to the public for the first time on Thursday, for the council’s planning meeting.

COVID-19 related restrictions had meant members of the public had, for much of this year, only been allowed into the public gallery to speak to items on the agenda, make submissions or ask a question of the council during public access.

Councillor Basil Cameron welcomed the change.

“I think it's great that people can actually be in the room and see part of the process for themselves,” he said.

“But fundamentally, it’s really about that transparency and accountability.

“That’s the best way to achieve it, by having people sitting there, watching the process, hearing what people say.”

Out of the circumstances of the pandemic, the council has established live-streaming for its planning and ordinary meetings.

But Cr Cameron said it was good to see the return of community members to the chambers.

“When we’re out of the room and people are just relying on a video connection … you miss out on an awful lot,” he said.

“We can get that feedback immediately, whether it’s people crossing their arms … or whatever.

“I think any system that doesn’t have that immediacy of transparency and people in the room, no matter how well-intentioned, things start to slip.”

The council’s staff were recording details of attendees to ensure contact tracing will be possible if necessary.

Anyone who is not well or is experiencing respiratory symptoms has been urged to not attend council meetings.