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Catherine Chu defends her attendance at council

Lucy Bendell
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Catherine Chu.   Christchurch city council

City Councillor denies claims about not attending briefings - she was either there or was in the community learning about the issue

25-year-old city councillor Catherine Chu represents the biggest ward in Christchurch and has come under fire for not attending a lot of council briefings. 

The Christchurch City Council published a spreadsheet of councillors' attendance and Chu said the statistics were incorrect. 

City councillors attendance at briefings
City councillors attendance at briefings Lucy Bendell

 

Councillors have the opportunity to attend the briefing to get in-depth knowledge about an issue before discussing it in a council meeting.  

The briefings have never been mandatory, but attendance has now been recorded. 

Chu had been marked absent from meetings she knew she attended. 

There had been 70 briefings since October 2019 and Chu was only marked present for 28 of the briefings.  

That is the lowest attendance rate out of all councillors, with the second-lowest, James Gough, attending 54 briefings - almost double Chu.  

It was recorded that Chu had attended two briefings out of the nine held this year. 

Chu described briefings to be a “waste of time”. 

She said she was better informed being out in the community learning about the issue than being told by a council staff member.   

“Your most important source of information is through your residents.”

Chu said spending a whole day in briefings was a “loss of opportunity”. 

She read all the power points and emails about the briefings and unless she has a question she does not attend.  

"There was no need to fill up a day when there are no real outcomes.”  

She said briefings cost ratepayers money as it took people out of their day-to-day jobs. 

“It's not necessary if there are other ways,” she said.  

Chu has attended every city council meeting as it involves deciding on behalf of Riccarton. 

She described Riccarton as a very diverse area and admitted it had been difficult to represent everyone.

Also on the Riccarton community board, Helen Broughton said Chu should turn up to the meetings so she could properly represent the Riccarton area. 

Broughton was a city councillor for 12 years and understands briefings may not be the most useful use of her time.  

But Broughton said Chu needed to be seen doing the right thing and going to the briefings to get a better understanding - suggesting it might need to be compulsory. 

Chu is a part of three residents associations within her ward - Deans Ave, central Riccarton, and Ilam Upper Riccarton. 

The Central Riccarton Residents’ Association secretary, Garth Wilson, said a meeting would be held this weekend to discuss the issue of Riccarton's representation on the council. 

Wilson would not comment until after the meeting.  

Ilam and Upper Riccarton Residents’ Association chairman, Jonathan Reddiford, said Chu had not been to a meeting this year. 

He acknowledged she had had a lot to do and was happy to have an informal meeting with her after.  

But he did say it would be easier if Chu just turned up.  

She said she doesn’t always go because often the residents' meetings clash with city council meetings.  

But, Reddiford doesn’t blame her.

“The problem is not Catherine, it’s the organisations and we need to review it.” 

He said the council should cut down the number of residents' associations as not all were necessary. 

The council has not responded to this claim.

Other councillors were approached for comment but did not answer.  

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