A local government researcher says streaming council meetings encourages resident participation but only one Pilbara Shire currently does it despite the size of the region. The Town of Port Hedland is the only local government area in the Pilbara to live stream council meetings, with the City of Karratha, the Shire of Ashburton, the Shire of Exmouth, and the Shire of East Pilbara not currently offering this service to residents. As part of the State Government’s recently announced reforms to the 1995 Local Government Act, all local governments will be required to live stream or record council meetings but no date for the changes has yet been declared. Local government researcher Dr Andy Asquith said that given the size of the Pilbara, council meetings should be live-streamed to encourage public participation. “Livestreaming is to be encouraged because the Pilbara’s not tiny, it’s not like Peppermint Grove in Perth,” he said. “The Pilbara is enormous and the population is spread out, so by livestreaming you instantly give people access to council meetings.” The City of Karratha, the Shire of Ashburton, The Shire of Exmouth, and the Shire of East Pilbara confirmed to the North West Telegraph that plans were in place to comply with the changes to the Local Government Act, but no start date for live streaming was confirmed. The local government reform package is considered the most significant in 25 years and seeks to make a number of changes to ensure local governments can better serve ratepayers. Dr Asquith said that live-streaming council meetings would make people more engaged with local government. “Many people switch off from local government because they see reports of bad behaviour or conflicts of interest, the sorts of things we shouldn’t be seeing in a public office,” he said. “If live-streaming leads to an improvement in the behaviour in council meetings and of councillors, I would argue more people would be interested.” “The reform package seeks to do a number of things, it will improve the integrity of those in local government and enhance the connectivity between local government and citizens.” The Shire of East Pilbara currently records its council meetings and a copy of the audio can be made available upon request. At the Town of Port Hedland’s July ordinary council meeting, councillors debated whether their briefing sessions should be recorded which would potentially make them available to the public via a freedom of information request. No decision was reached on the policy change.