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Guide to Councils

Council meetings

All council decisions are made at council meetings or through them. They are either made at the meeting or under delegated authority to others.

Council decisions are made by a majority of the councillors present at the meeting voting in favour, providing a quorum is present. If there is a tied vote the mayor, who chairs council meetings, has a second casting vote.

All councillors present at a council meeting may vote on every motion, unless they have a conflict of interest.

There are different types of council meetings. They are:

  • Ordinary meetings
  • Special meetings

Each council's performance for Governance can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.

How council meetings are governed

The Local Government Act lays down the basic requirements of council meetings. These include public access to meetings, councillor voting and the need to keep minutes of meetings. The Act also requires that each council make a local law to govern the conduct of its council meetings and special committee meetings. Where the Act makes no provision for a particular matter, the conduct of a council meeting is at the discretion of the council.

These rules also apply to the conduct of a meeting of a special committee of council.

What is a meeting procedure local law?

A meeting procedure local law describes how a particular council intends to govern the conduct of its meetings – including the processes and standards that it intends to apply. Typically, it covers:

  • Notice of meeting
  • Distribution of the meeting agenda
  • Confirming previous meeting minutes
  • The order of business
  • Urgent business
  • Business at which the meeting will be closed to members of the public
  • Public question time
  • Procedures for moving motions and amendments
  • Rescission motions
  • Procedural motions and points of order
  • Time limits for debate.

Questions about the content and use of your council’s meeting procedure local law should be addressed to the council. Copies of all of local laws are available on your council website, and may be inspected and/or purchased at your council offices.

Attending council meetings

You are able to attend a council meeting as a member of the public. All council meetings are required to be open to the public, with the exception of when the council decides to close the meeting to the public (in-camera meetings) in certain circumstances. Attending council meetings can be a good way to understand how councils make decisions.

Contact your council for details of council meetings in your area.

While council meetings are an opportunity to observe the council at work, they are not the place for members of the public to address councillors. People who have been invited to make a submission may speak when directed, but there should be no debate between the public and councillors at council meetings.

Some council local laws do allow for public question time during meetings. However, arrangements vary and enquires should be made separately to each council.

Each council's performance for Governance can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.

Meeting agendas

Before each meeting council staff prepare a meeting agenda. This lists all the items the council intends to consider at the meeting. It usually also contains council officers’ reports and recommendations on these matters. Councillors use these reports as a source of information and advice to assist their decision making.

Before each meeting, councils often publish council meeting agendas on their websites. Agendas are sometimes also available in places such as the local library or community centre and the council offices. Copies are made available at each council meeting, and the main items on an agenda may also be advertised in local papers.

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