News: New Code of Conduct for Council

17 December 2021

The South Wairarapa District Council has adopted a new Code of Conduct which provides guidance on how Councillors should behave while in office.

It is based on the Local Government New Zealand template used by Councils around the country. The old code was a legacy from previous days and work on its replacement has been underway for a number of months

Mayor Alex Beijen said: “Elected members have always been able to express personal views under the old Code but the new Code will be clearer and more consistent with other Councils around the country.

“It’s always been the case that a Councillor’s views outside of the council chambers are their own, but this Code underlines the importance of making it clear if they are differing from other members or Council policy and that they are speaking in their own capacity.

“This Code is also more suited to the modern climate and especially so around social media.”

 Some of the changes include:

  • An agreed set of values
  • A complaints process
  • Modern media engagement guidance for elected members, including social media.

The Code is not intended to limit robust debate but sets out some ground rules. Members are free to make comment to the media, but must be clear when they differ on policy or decisions that they are expressing a personal view. They must not purposefully misrepresent the views of the Board, Council or other members.

The Code also expects elected members to foster trust and respect in their Council through

  • Fair, honest and respectful interactions with citizens
  • Being available to listen and respond openly and honestly to citizens’ concerns
  • Representing the views of citizens and organisations accurately, regardless of the member’s own opinions of the matters raised.

Chief Executive Harry Wilson said most organisations had codes of conduct but local government was different because of the public expectations around transparency and debate.

“When things get heated around the Council or community board table, it’s good to be able to have the guidance of an agreed set of values and ground rules that everyone agrees on.”

The Code will be effective immediately for the Council and will go to community boards in February, when they next meet. It can be found here.

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