If you are interested in local government in Wellington please support this call for Wellington City Council (WCC) to create an electronic database of councillor voting records
If you're already on-board you can go straight to the bottom and sign up. If you would like to know more read on...
Wouldn't it be great to be able to easily find out how Wellington City Councillors have voted on a range of issues across a triennium? Although records of voting in WCC meetings are currently accessible via the minutes of individual meetings these are in pdf format and there is no easy way to collate, search, filter and analyse these records to see patterns and trends, or see the voting records of particular councillors or areas of interest. Putting voting records in an electronic, searchable, publicly accessible database would make analysis of council voting a lot easier and there would be significant benefit for anybody interested in local government in Wellington including journalists, residents associations, commentators, advocates, academics and voters. Hopefully it would be used to inform voter decision-making and boost engagement during the lead up to the October 2022 local body elections.
WCC have been asked to create a database of voting records on at least two previous occasions. In 2016 someone made an Open Data request on the data.govt.nz website which the council declined within a few hours stating that "no data set is held outside of individual meeting minutes which record resolutions. The Council has no provision to create this type of data set. The minutes that record all resolutions are available on the Council’s website". The council declined a similar request from a councillor in March 2021 with the council claiming that "it would be a very significant piece of work to make this user-friendly and searchable to a member of the public". I don't think that's true or that the council is trying hard enough to make this work, particularly considering the significant public benefit.
This linked spreadsheet shows the voting from the council’s 18 February 2021 Annual Plan/Long Term Plan Committee meeting and was created in approximately one hour, despite being an exceptionally long meeting with a lot of votes. The council may wish to explore other more sophisticated solutions but even if council staff manually populated a publicly accessible spreadsheet it should add no more than 20 minutes to the minute taking process of an average meeting. Four types of meeting account for approximately 70% of all council meetings. They are full council meetings, the Strategy & Policy Committee, the Annual Plan/Long Term Plan Committee and the Regulatory Processes Committee. If the council focused on these meetings initially it should create no more than 20 hrs additional work per year (based on approximately 60 meetings x 20 mins). The public benefit of making this information available in this format will vastly outweigh the relatively minor cost.
The plan is to make a request under Section 15(2) of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) for WCC to create an electronic, searchable, publicly accessible database of council voting records over a full triennium, including a back-dated request for all voting records during the current triennium. Section 15(2) of the LGOIMA requires a local authority to generally "make the information available in the way preferred by the person requesting it", which in this case would be in an electronic, searchable format.
The second part of the plan is to gather as much support as possible up front which is where you come in. If you think this is a good idea please add your signature to the request using the Google Form link below. You can sign as an individual or on behalf of an organisation but if signing for an organisation please make sure you are authorised to first. There's also a link to the draft letter which you are welcome to make comments on. If any significant changes are made as a result signatories will be notified and given the opportunity to withdraw their signature although the substantive intent of the letter (to request an electronic database of voting records) will not change. I'll be collecting signatures for a couple of weeks (until at least 14 April).
Thanks in advance for your support! If you have any questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org