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BAY OF PLENTY REGIONAL COUNCIL TOI MOANA

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Pre-Election

This page gives information about pre-election communications by the Council and the pre-election report as required by the Local Government Act 2002.

Pre-election report

The pre-election report is required by the Local Government Act section 99A. The purpose of this report is to provide prospective Council candidates and the wider community with information about the issues facing our region and the Council. This report covers our strategic context, strategic issues, and what we do to deliver our community outcomes and  summary financial information.

Read the Pre-election report 2016 here

Pre-election communications policy and guidance   

2016 Pre-election Communications Policy and guidance for operating Council business during the pre-election period

At its meeting held 10 March 2016 Council adopted its pre-election communications policy that states;

Mass communications (e.g. normal media releases, social media, website, electronic newsletters and other Council promotions and communications) continue during the pre-election period from 8 July 2016 to 8 October 2016 using the following:

  • No councillor photographs or contact details in any publications or on Council’s website that could be seen as for campaign purposes.
  • Continue to quote the Chairman and Committee Chairs only in response to external public and press comments made about Council policy.
  • Using the Chief Executive or her delegate for all other mass communications.

The policy follows Office of the Auditor-General guidelines, and the information below provides background and guidance for managing Council business during this time.

1. Introduction

In 2004 the Controller and Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) published a “Good practice for Managing Public Communications by Local Authorities guidelines” document. The key principle in the guide for communications in a pre-election period states:

“A local authority must not promote, nor be perceived to promote, the re-election prospects of a sitting member.  Therefore, the use of Council resources for re-election purposes is unacceptable and possibly unlawful.”

2. Pre-election period

The OAG guidelines notes the “pre-election period” to mean the three months before the close of polling day, however Council has the ability to apply restrictions over a longer period. Council decided its pre-election period in respect of its pre-election communications policy will follow the three month guidance and will be from 8 July 2016 to 8 October 2016.

3. Communication in a pre-election period

There are some simple principles that need to be balanced in a pre-election period and they are:

  • Council staff need to maintain their neutrality,
  • Public funds that Council administers should not be used for electioneering or to benefit one candidate over another,
  • Councillors are still in office during the election campaign and remain responsible for the activities of Council,
  • Ordinary council business has to continue despite the election, which includes on-going communication with the (voting) public.

Council must address how it will manage the need to maintain ordinary business and continue to carry out their responsibilities, while ensuring council resources are not used, or perceived to be used, to give electoral advantage.

3.1 Areas of risk

The OAG has identified four key areas of business where council could usefully consider its level of risk before the election, and they are:

3.1.1 Public events, launches and community events

Can be seen or perceived as a publicly funded platform for sitting elected members to promote themselves. Council should reduce the number of major events during the election campaign, and manage events carefully to ensure there is no promotion of sitting members.

3.1.2 Councillor and Chairman newspaper columns and other communication channels

Columns specifically focussing on the opinion of a specific Councillor or the Chairman are suspended during the defined pre-election period. However to ensure ordinary Council business continues, it is recommended that council staff take responsibility for ongoing communication during this period.

3.1.3 Staff communicating with candidates

Election protocols for staff have been drafted, and will be promoted. The protocols outline the following key issues that staff must manage during an election, such as:

  •    Staff actions do not lead to allegations of bias;
  •    Sitting members do not gain electoral advantage at ratepayers expense;
  •    Council resources are not used to promote re-election prospects;
  •    Staff should not align themselves or support candidates;
  •    Staff standing for election.

4. Principles of communication for local authorities in a pre-election period

Mass communications planned for that period include normal media releases, social media, website, electronic newsletters and other Council promotions and communications.

The OAG guidelines (refer section 4.52) notes that:

“Curtailing all Council communications during a pre-election period is neither practicable nor (as far as mandatory communications, such as those required under the LGA, are concerned) possible.  Routine council business must continue. In particular:

  • Some Council’s publish their annual reports during the months leading up to an October election, which would include information (including photographs) about sitting members.
  • Council leaders and spokespersons need to continue to communicate matters of Council business to the public.”.