Update, 10am Thursday: Horsham Rural City Council has released a statement about meetings:
During this period of strict requirements, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Horsham Rural City Council Mayor Mark Radford has echoed the Municipal Association of Victoria's call for the Victorian Government to urgently change laws preventing Council Ordinary and Special Meetings to take place online.
The MAV last week called on the State Government to amend the Local Government Act to enable Councils to hold Meetings online or to use declaration powers under the Emergency Management Act to allow for alternative solutions.
The current Local Government Act requires Councillors to be physically in attendance at a Council meeting in order to participate in Council decision-making. If there isn't a majority of Councillors in attendance, Councils cannot make a quorum and the meeting cannot proceed.
Cr Radford said he had written to Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek to add HRCC's voice to the many Councils which have requested urgent changes to the Local Government Act.
Regional Cities Victoria, a group representing the 10 regions in the state, has also called for online meetings to be given the green light.
HRCC is also exploring options to livestream online Council Meetings to the public, in place of a public gallery and ways to enable public questions.
Cr Radford said during this time, the health of Councillors, staff, their families and the broader community was paramount, as was following the rules put in place by the Government.
The Councillor group has been holding its weekly briefing meetings online, in preparation for a Council meeting using a video-conferencing.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday April 27, and Cr Radford hoped changes would be made in time.
Cr Radford said COVID-19 posed a genuine risk to Council doing its job, as long as the laws required Councillors to be physically present to debate and vote.
"Preparations for the 20/21 Council Budget are underway. In the coming months, Council will be sending the 20/21 Draft Budget out for public comment with a view to adoption in accordance with the Government timeline requirements.
"This year's Budget will be a critical part of the recovery process for our community," he said.
"The intention would be to return to traditional face to face, person to person Council Meetings when permitted to do so."
Earlier: Hindmarsh Shire has slashed the number of Council meetings in the new few months as it awaits legislative change to allow councillors to convene by video link.
The current Local Government Act does not allow for any Victorian councillors to hold meetings by video link.
Hindmarsh Shire Council announced on Tuesday the April 22 and 10 June meetings had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said remaining future meetings would be relocated to the Nhill Memorial Community Centre.
Mayor Rob Gersch said the next meeting scheduled for May 13 would be "a quick one" focused only on "absolutely essential items" requiring Council decision.
"Council meetings are open and that's where it is a little bit awkward," he said. "We would encourage people not to attend and we won't have question time on the agenda."
Cr Gersch said the meetings would not be live streamed but people could pass on their concerns to the Council or councillors to be raised in the meeting.
He said the reduced number of meetings meant decision making had to be delegated to Council staff.
"Like all other councils we are giving a bit of extra power to our CEOS so they've got a bit more discretion," he said. "They're very responsible people and we have the utmost confidence in decisions being made right by then."
Cr Gersch said Council had been in discussions with the Municipal Association of Victoria, using a Zoom link, about a recommendation Councillors be permitted to use a video link instead of having to be physically present for meetings.
"It's the way we're going to have to do things," he said. "I know the MAV is pushing for it but the Minister (for Local Government) can't do anything, it has to be an act of Parliament and that depends when Parliament sits again.
Cr Gersch said even if the laws were changed to allow virtual meetings he hoped after the COVID-19 pandemic they would return to "the status quo", despite the convenience in municipalities which cover a large area.
"I feel very strongly about people personally being in attendance," he said. I like to look people in the eye, rather than seeing them through a screen."
In West Wimmera Shire all ordinary council meetings will be live streamed to the public and media on their website.
West Wimmera Shire Council governance manager Elizabeth Matuschka said all attending Councillors would be present in the room and the required social distancing would be undertaken.
A state government spokesperson said in a statement: "The Government is working with Councils to consider the implications of coronavirus on their operations including the welfare of staff, compliance with the Act, elections and their meetings".
The Mail-Times has contacted Horsham Rural City Council, Yarriambiack Shire Council for comment.