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Submissions on draft plan: Start with the positive

by 1 Aug 2011Local board0 comments

Light rail cycle flatcar

Rail Trail of the Future: Increasingly, internationally, the move is to rail with trail, rather than cannibalise perfectly useable railways. image Rails-to-Trails Conservancy | Josh Hooper

It’s not that it’s a bad plan. That notwithstanding, most comments on the draft local board plan will be negative simply because it is human nature for folk to react strongly to things they disagree with.

So it could be argued that by asking citizens to state the draft plan priorities they agree with, before they address those they disagree with, goes against human nature. Be that as it may, starting with the positive is the way the submission form is laid out online:

I agree with the following priorities proposed in the draft local board plan:

I do not agree with the following priorities proposed in the draft local board plan:

Please list any other priorities you think are more important than the ones in the draft local board plan:

Do you have any other comments on the draft local board plan?

In addition to listing priorities, citizens asked to:

please provide comments to support your response

There is every probability that the science of public consultation supports asking for the positive first, where support affirmation is sought. However, the long-term need to better-engage people in local government processes requires that council planning processes are made quick and easy for feedback to be provided. And the obvious way to facilitate that is to allow feedback directly from, in this case, the online draft plan. For example, the draft states:

Construct the Pūhoi to Wellsford Highway with access at Pūhoi

Readers will have a variety of responses, both to the planned highway and, if built, whether access should provided at Pūhoi. These could be captured online there and then, notwithstanding the difficulty created by the plan conflating two issues. Also, because the draft is silent on alternatives to the planned highway, feedback will be further be skewed in its favour.

Only three or four people of every 10 who are eligible, vote in local government elections, but the percentage that makes submissions is positively miniscule. Even the high profile Royal Commission on Auckland Governance received only one submission per 0.36% of voters. An interactive draft local board plan would draw in younger people, many of whom are electorally unregistered. When making their online submission, the latter group could be offered the option of making an online enrolment request. Suchlike practical measures will do far more for the health of democracy than any amount of lecturing by orange-coloured cartoon characters.

Meantime, regardless of whether they dutifully start with the priorities with which they agree, or skip straight to the chase and object to those that they don’t, the region’s citizens have only until next Monday afternoon to make their submissions on the draft local board plan.

Having built up a head of steam, a number will no doubt also petition the ‘Minister for Motorways’.


Save the Auckland–Northland Rail Line If Minister of Transport Joyce was doing his job, which he is brilliantly with broadband, he would have made upgrading Northland rail and building the rail link to Marsden Point a national priority. As it stands, the entire Auckland–Northland line is in danger of being abandoned.

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