Coun­cil em­brac­ing new ways to com­mu­ni­cate

Whangarei Report - - OPINION - By Whanga¯ rei Mayor SH­ERYL MAI

It’s a brave new dig­i­tal world and Whangārei Dis­trict Coun­cil is work­ing hard to en­sure we’re match­ing pace. It’s no easy feat as tech­nol­ogy seems to be ad­vanc­ing faster than ever — but we’re mak­ing big moves in the right di­rec­tion.

This year we’ve been fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing our on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions and dig­i­tal en­gage­ment, giv­ing peo­ple an eas­ier, more di­rect way of in­ter­act­ing with coun­cil. We’re mod­ernising our tech­nol­ogy and digi­tis­ing our archives, us­ing se­cure cloud stor­age for safety and ease of ac­cess. We con­ducted a per­cent­age of our cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­veys on­line for the first time this year and feed­back was pos­i­tive. We’re busy cre­at­ing Whangārei’s first dig­i­tal coun­cil and these de­vel­op­ments will help us stay in touch, while giv­ing ev­ery­one the abil­ity to have their say on the de­vel­op­ment of our dis­trict.

Web­site de­vel­op­ment

One of the big­gest changes we’re work­ing on at the mo­ment is the de­vel­op­ment of our new web­site. This will have a huge im­pact on how we are able to con­nect with peo­ple, of­fer­ing a clearer av­enue for find­ing in­for­ma­tion, get­ting in touch and learn­ing about coun­cil pro­cesses. It’s a big project, and we’re work­ing hard to make sure that the ‘user jour­ney’ is as sim­ple and di­rect as pos­si­ble.

This new web­site is go­ing to be an in­ter­ac­tive tool, of­fer­ing you por­tals with real-time in­for­ma­tion, video tu­to­ri­als and an up-to-date knowl­edge base. Peo­ple will be able to sub­mit and track ser­vice re­quests, make sub­mis­sions on plans, sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tions, regis­ter dogs, track and mon­i­tor progress on re­quests; all on­line.

So­cial me­dia

We all know how per­va­sive so­cial me­dia is. Love it or hate it, it’s a fact of mod­ern life and is a ma­jor com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel for many peo­ple liv­ing in our dis­trict. Coun­cil has em­braced so­cial me­dia as a fast, ef­fec­tive means of con­nect­ing peo­ple, re­ply­ing to com­ments and ques­tions quickly and with as much de­tail as pos­si­ble. We’re find­ing that more and more peo­ple are choos­ing to in­ter­act with us in this way, and we’re lov­ing the op­por­tu­nity to get on board with dis­cus­sions on many lo­cal is­sues. We’re also notic­ing that we’re able to reach a bet­ter cross sec­tion of so­ci­ety and to­gether with our new web­site plat­form, we’re look­ing for­ward to tightly in­te­grat­ing our so­cial me­dia and on­line ser­vices.

We’re also con­sid­er­ing in­creas­ing our re­sponse hours to in­clude after hours and week­ends, giv­ing the peo­ple in our dis­trict real-time re­sponses to their queries as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. So­ci­ety is go­ing more dig­i­tal, and so are we.

Smarter tech­nol­ogy

We’re not just mod­ernising our com­mu­ni­ca­tions, we’re up­grad­ing our tech­nol­ogy too. Our con­trac­tors out in the field are us­ing smarter mo­bile tech­nol­ogy to speed up pro­cesses, re­duc­ing paper waste and in­creas­ing ef­fi­ciency.

We’re digi­tis­ing our records, of­fer­ing on­line Land In­for­ma­tion Mem­o­ran­dums (LIMS) and giv­ing you the abil­ity to view and an­a­lyse our dis­trict plan poli­cies on­line us­ing GIS map­ping, so you can see what poli­cies ap­ply to each prop­erty. In the fu­ture, any­thing to do with your prop­erty you will be able to re­search and ac­cess your­self.

It’s an ex­cit­ing new age and I’m de­lighted to be work­ing to­gether with such a for­ward­think­ing coun­cil, em­brac­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. As a fa­mous Kiwi once said: it won’t hap­pen overnight, but it will hap­pen.

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