May 2018 – Wellingtonians having a say – will it make a difference?Diane Calvert
Submissions on Wellington City Council’s draft 10 year plan have just closed. We doubled the number from last time, plus we heard from a lot more younger Wellingtonians. Improving community engagement especially across all age groups doesn’t occur by chance nor by a few more social media posts. It takes a focus, a plan and resources, the opportunity to do things differently and support from across the organisation. The team at Wellington City Council have certainly delivered on this, judging by the significant increase in submissions. But will it make a difference? That’s my intention as the Councillor leading the engagement portfolio but you will need to be the judge of that once the final plan is signed off at the end of June. Over the next couple of weeks, we’re also going to hear from those people and groups who want to talk to their submission. What we have learned so far is resilience is top of mind for people closely followed by transport and housing. Encouraging more people to have a say is only worth the effort if you are willing to listen and reflect on what is said. We won’t however always be able to accommodate funding requests or agree with views expressed and there will be some tough decisions for the future that will not be palatable for some. I know some people may not have engaged on the 10 year plan because they thought “why bother, the Council never listens”. Changing those views will take time, more good engagement activity along with demonstrating that we do listen. As a council, we have to be prepared to change our direction and views when previously unknown facts and views emerge. The earth gave us a significant jolt in November 2016 with the Kaikoura earthquake and subsequently jolted our thinking about many parts of our city. A new government also provides different opportunities and challenges. We also have to be pragmatic. This week, the council agreed to restore the Museum stand at the Basin Reserve instead of putting in flood lights. A much better use of the money especially if you take into account costs and time to demolish and landscape the area. On a smaller scale, we heard from the Newtown community that they wanted to see their library hours extended on a Saturday. We agreed to a trial for 12 months while acknowledging there will a wider and longer term review. Could we have engaged better on the 10 year plan? Undoubtedly, even with the improvements already made. However if we want sustainable ongoing improvement; ongoing increases to the trust and confidence levels of Wellingtonians in our decision making; and to ensure the prudent use of ratepayers funds, we need to be prepared to take a stepped approach to improving how we engage. We also need to continue to gather feedback on how we can engage better. Your views are always welcome.