Consultation: We Can do Better

The recent consultation on the District Plan Change and By-Law regarding access to the beaches for motor vehicles and horses showed that there can be a major problem with processes under the Local Government Act.

Take this scenario.

The Council puts out a draft bylaw for consultation.  People submit on it.  Some assume that “A” is going to take place because it is in the draft bylaw.  A whole swag of submitters, however, demand that “A” be changed to “B”.  In the light of all the submissions, the Council adopts “B”.  Those who assumed “A” was going to happen, and wanted it to happen, are up in arms because they didn’t realise that there would be a demand for “B”, so they didn’t say they opposed “B”.

I believe that there should be a two-stage submision process, where the first round of submissions are open to public scrutiny and people then can make submissions on the first submissions.  This is a process that sometimes happens under the Resource Management Act.

It might sound cumbersome, and would take longer, but at least it would be fairer – and the Council would have better handle on community views.

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4 Responses to “Consultation: We Can do Better”

  1. Kirstyn Barnett Says:

    David, would it not be sensible to offer up two or three options, ie an A, B and C, which covers a range of scenarios? This would ensure a full range of submissions who would disagree with A, B or C and give a much clearer picture of community feedback for a hearings panel.
    With the Waste Management strategy there were 5 options given and this resulted in a great deal of submissions.

    I believe 5 is too many, however if 2 or 3 are given this gives everyone the chance to agree, disagree or make further recommendations.

    • David Ayers Says:

      Thanks Kirstyn. Yes, for many consultation processes that is the best way and the open-slate approach was used earlier in the “Better Beaches” process. With draft by-laws and plan changes, however, the Council has to adopt one proposal for the community to approve, oppose or comment on. For strategy documents like the Waste Management Strategy, the option approach is often very appropriate.

  2. Kirstyn Barnett Says:

    I would like to see how other councils manage this process, as it appears the legislation is therefore hindering proper community consultation which is not its intention, or is it the interpretation of the legislation that is the true hindrance?
    If the District Plan process or LGA is bad law, perhaps we should look at changing the laws to match the needs of ratepayers.

    • David Ayers Says:

      Hi Kirstyn. I don’t know how other councils deal with the issue, but it wouldn’t seem too difficult to go through a two-stage process. The community could be told after the first round of submissions that there had, for instance, been a request to ban dogs from Southbrook Park – and then give the community an opportunity to comment on that proposal. The whole draft by-law wouldn’t have to be up for further consultation if that was the only matter like that, i.e. a propsal from the community that hadn’t been put before the wider community. I don’t see that the legislation itself is a problem.

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