Albany councillors have unanimously backed a commitment to hold at least one meet and greet event at a rural community hall each year. The commitment comes after former councillor Chris Thomson tabled a motion earlier this year calling for at least one council meeting a year to be held at a rural hall to boost engagement within those sections of the Albany community. The motion led City officers to prepare a report examining the potential costs and benefits of such an undertaking, which was presented to councillors this month. The report suggests potential benefits include increased community engagement, a localised perspective, improved transparency, reduced urban bias, and stronger ties with rural communities. It also outlines that holding ordinary meetings at rural halls would “entail significant logistical, financial, and technological considerations”. Officers ultimately recommended council confirm that meet and greets should remain preferred method of “building relationships between elected members and the broader community”. Cr Malcolm Traill added an amendment calling on a commitment to be added to the City’s meet and greet guidelines that “one meet and greet be held in a rural community hall each year”. Speaking to his amendment, Cr Traill said given the City no longer had a ward system it “behoves us to add a particular clause into the meet and greet guidelines to include the rural communities”. “This is a great opportunity for us to actually engage with all of our community and doesn’t discriminate against anyone who live a long way from town,” he said. Cr Lynn MacLaren said the proposal to do meet and greets “is much improved” and to have a least one a year at rural halls was “a very sensible way forward”. “Sitting down and talking to someone or having a casual conversation with someone in a meet and greet is much more effective,” she said. Cr Stephen Grimmer said the best way to engage with communities was through listening. “I’m much happier with a meet and greet style where we will be out there listening to people and talking to them about issues rather than taking a roadshow of us where we do the talking, because I don’t think that is of interest to rural communities,” he said. Cr Traill’s amendment was supported unanimously.