BOP Regional Councillor
I have spent a lot of time over the past eight months reading and listening to submissions to various strategic documents and making decisions as a result of the submissions.
Specific documents being consulted have included the Regional Policy Statement, the Regional Land Transport Programme and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council 10 Year Plan.
Reflecting on these consultative processes, I firstly want to acknowledge and thank submitters for their thoughtful input and the time taken to input into these important democratic consultations. Secondly, I really appreciate the consistent input from many of the same people and community groups who obviously care deeply about our region and the way forward. However the actual number of submissions is low as a percentage of the population. What is obvious is that many in the community do not find our processes easy to engage with, do not know of them, do not care about them, or do not think their voice will be heard or make a difference on the ultimate outcome. I cannot help but think there must be a better way.
One of the submitters mentioned submission overload, with a number of 10 year plans all coming out at the same time, making it very difficult for people to assimilate what they were all saying and respond in the timeframes. Others mentioned that the documents are not always easy to read and that key messages are not always clear. A group of young people mentioned to me that they feel excluded because the language we use is too complex and the formal submission processes are too hard to engage with and that they would prefer face-to-face discussions.
Part of the problem is that local authorities are bound by legislation to consult and so we do it by the book, which turns many people off. But I understand that when the Auckland City developed its master plan, face-to-face meetings were held on issues as a way of getting community views, and that this may herald a more flexible method of consultation being acceptable in statutory processes in the future. I am not sure how this may play out, but like much in the local government arena, there must be a better way.