Keep hav­ing your say

Coun­cil feed­back ‘loop’ im­por­tant

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS -

The coun­cil’s done the hard yards in the back rooms and they’ve put their draft An­nual Plan out. We can use our knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to give feed­back to make sure our plan is a good fit for our com­mu­nity.

The big­gest of the seven Big Is­sues for 2014-15 is hid­den away on the back page.

Na­tional’s lo­cal govern­ment re­form pack­age aims to ‘‘make con­sul­ta­tion re­quire­ments more flex­i­ble’’ and to ‘‘pro­vide for a new sig­nif­i­cance and en­gage­ment pol­icy’’.

That means coun­cils are re­view­ing what com­mu­ni­ties get asked about and how com­mu­ni­ties in­put into the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

The ques­tion is: Do we want them to make de­ci­sions for us or do we want them to make de­ci­sions with us?

A sound feed­back loop has two parts. First ‘‘the people’’ need to have good in­for­ma­tion so they can think through the is­sues and make their opin­ions known. Then the coun­cil needs to lis­ten and con­sider the ideas, adapt­ing the plans and budget to re­flect the com­mu­nity’s in­put.

Last year the times­lot for faceto-face pre­sen­ta­tions was cut in half. More ‘‘ef­fi­cient’’ but less ef­fec­tive as it left no time for coun­cil­lors to ask ques­tions to bet­ter un­der­stand people’s points. I sat through a lot of sub­mis­sions. Hardly any ques­tions were asked. It gave the im­pres­sion that the plan was a fait ac­com­pli.

The five-minute time limit and the em­bargo on ques­tions didn’t ap­ply if you were a big de­vel­oper. While all res­i­dents are equal, some res­i­dents are more equal than oth­ers.

We could change that. We need to make sure this re­view im­proves the work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween coun­cil and com­mu­nity.

Have your say about the sports fa­cil­ity, the pool and the li­brary. But the bot­tom line is whether we get to keep hav­ing a say at all.

● Sue Coutts lives in Hawea Flat, man­ages Wanaka Waste­busters and is in­ter­ested in al­most ev­ery­thing.

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