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Consultation questions – frustrating, restrictive, slanted

by Wendy Armitage
Inner City Wellington questions the rationale behind the WCC’s 10-year Plan pre-consultation questionnaire that has been posted on their website. Completing the questionnaire becomes an increasingly frustrating experience with restrictive and slanted questioning.

The questionnaire is supposed to give the WCC direction towards what the public consider important, and focuses on five key areas of Housing, Resilience and Environment, Transport, Art and Culture and Sustainable Growth.

But all questions have only two options to choose from and no method of making independent comment. The only way to disagree is to skip answering the question, which negates any form of real consultation. Three questions in particular are of concern.

The two options regarding housing give a choice between housing an increased population in either “more central city apartments” or “more medium density housing in our suburbs”. Nowhere is there an option for intensification in both city and suburbs, which is the intended outcome of the Our City Tomorrow work.

And to influence decision making, each option is accompanied by a graphic – one is a future-focused graphic, one is more ‘current state’.

The central city option shows an attractive medium-rise apartment complex and opposite this the suburban option depicting a very unattractive scene of house roofs jammed together as far as the eye can see. In our view this would clearly sway the public to choose the central city option and it is highly possible the results would be different if the high-rise building was shown as a tall ugly tower and the suburban photo depicted a beautifully designed townhouse development.

The transport question asks how we like to travel in and around Wellington in 10 years’ time and gives two options. One being “Using a motorised vehicle like a car or motorbike”, and the second “Using active transport like walking or cycling”.

Surprisingly, public transport which is one of the major issues facing Wellington is completely ignored unless one elects to tick motorised vehicles which would skew results.

This is not providing a real opportunity to tell the Council what they think about the transport question facing Wellingtonians.

The Sustainable Growth question explains that “A strong economy will help Wellingtonians maintain a high quality of life” and asks “How do you think we should do this?” by giving the options of “investing in activities and facilities that support the tourism sector” or “investing in activities and projects that support the digital/tech sector”.

There is no way any other option can be considered.

The WCC is keen on engagement, which is great. But this approach does not enable people to engage with the questions.

The draft Long Term Plan will be approved by the Council on 28 March, so the results won’t impact on what is consulted on.

Given that, ICW asks WCC to explain the purpose of the pre-consultation questionnaire: how and when will the data be used, and what status will the results be given along with the submissions made in the actual consultation period?

Wendy Armitage is a committee member of Inner City Wellington which represents residents, organisations and property owners who live, own and operate in the inner city community.

15 comments:

  1. Sarah Webb, 26. March 2018, 10:59

    Agree ICW! I started to do it and also felt very frustrated. I’ve never done such a ‘leading’ and closed questionnaire. WCC are keen on consultation if they hear what they want to hear. They’re just ticking the consultation box. Also I’m miffed that as a business owner in Wellington that doesn’t contribute to either the tourism sector or IT/digital sector that my contribution to the local economy is not seen as important. Pff.

     
  2. michael, 26. March 2018, 11:22

    I ended up skipping most questions and decided it was merely a WCC exercise to tick the “consultation” box. Certainly doesn’t give the public opportunity to express a point of view.

     
  3. Ian Apperley, 26. March 2018, 17:28

    Agreed. This is one of the poorer efforts at consultation. The results of course are as predicted and there is so much bias built into the survey it’s a wonder it sits straight on the page. May I suggest that community groups run their own consultation, ex-Council. If the WCC can pop up a survey in ten minutes, so can we. Frankly, its time we stopped engaging with them.

     
  4. Andy Foster, 26. March 2018, 20:32

    Hi Wendy – I agree with you. I don’t know who designed this short survey but it is not going to add much value to any decision making. As you say the questions are simplistic, binary, and lack the ability to do anything beyond ‘yes’/’no’. Most issues of public policy, especially those with any degree of complexity, are nuanced and not so straightforward. There is no information provided around the issues in the survey. The survey is further hampered by the fact that participants will be self-selecting. Another failing is the pictures. The first question is about whether people would prefer population growth to be accommodated in the central city or by suburban medium density. Given so many people misunderstand what medium density means, to have a picture of a sea of stand-alone suburban houses (with barely a stick of vegetation in site I might add) which are not medium density is not terribly helpful.
    Final point to make is that there will be consultation over the Long Term Plan. This is part of a form of pre-consultation. Fact is that the LTP has not even been signed off yet – so we can’t yet consult on it.
    Ian, despite what you say, I would encourage people to participate in the consultation. Your recent article rightly identified that there are many important issues, decisions on which will have significant impacts on the city and on our collective pockets.

    Regards
    Andy

     
  5. michael, 26. March 2018, 21:00

    Absolutely agree Ian. One wonders if they do this to stop us engaging with them, as they do not appear to be interested in what we think.

     
  6. Cllr Diane Calvert, 27. March 2018, 0:10

    Dear Wendy and commentators
    You all raise very valid points. The simple survey and provocative pictures were designed to spark early discussion. However we at the WCC obviously missed the mark on this engagement exercise by not including more context with the ability to add additional comments. I will look to get this fixed quickly.

    Formal consultation starts from mid April with a lot more information and the ability to provide more feedback in different ways will be available.

    We will also be sharing information on the draft long term plan through different channels – social media, community meetings etc. Councillors and staff are also available to come and share the information with community and business groups to generate further discussion, feedback and submission.

    In addition to the formal written submission and oral hearings we will be also be offering a more informal setting to hear from people. We know the traditional environment can be off-putting for some so we will provide a forum type setting to encourage more people to have a say direct with Councillors. If you have any other suggestions and or concerns please feel free to contact me directly. My email is diane.calvert@wcc.govt.nz

     
  7. Ian Shearer, 27. March 2018, 6:50

    I agree Andy – this certainly is a meaningless survey. Please do not waste more resources by having a consultant analyse and report on the results – clearly it will be rubbish.
    The transport question highlights how powerless the mayor and the city council are with regards to giving the people what they want – as expressed to LGWM:
    better public transport
    less cars and congestion
    more walking and cycling facilities
    AND a light rail system as the spine from station to airport and Miramar

     
  8. Wendy Armitage, 27. March 2018, 10:00

    @ Diane Calvert:I appreciate the phone call from you this morning to discuss this issue.

     
  9. Tony Jansen, 27. March 2018, 11:51

    Just how do the WCC miss the mark every time? And how much does the ever lengthening displays of ineptitude or fake news (readers’ pick) end up costing the ratepayer and taxpayer?
    Surely this council is breaking records for failure to not only engage with their customers (us), but to actually do anything meaningful. Rainbow pedestrian crossings are great PR but this isn’t much to show for a council over halfway through their term.
    Oh, and by the way, the cycleway designs are the worst I have ever seen. Absolutely lethal. Clearly nothing has been from the Island Bay fiasco. Please go see the Dutch Ambassador and spend time talking to him about how to properly design and implement cycle ways.

     
  10. Ian Apperley, 27. March 2018, 14:46

    Hi Andy, I guess the statement could be taken as provocative. I do wonder what difference it would make if people just stopped engaging… It’s an interesting thought.

     
  11. Thomas, 27. March 2018, 22:13

    I think this is just engagement to start a conversation around the five key areas. I would say that this article and comments show that it’s working. As Andy and Dianne have said, it’s not the consultation….that it still coming. Let’s wait and see!

     
  12. David Mackenzie, 28. March 2018, 8:59

    I agree with the tenor of the article. That was an extremely poor consultation, which limited options so much that nothing meaningful could be fed back.

     
  13. michael, 28. March 2018, 12:34

    @Thomas: The problem is that, as an official WCC pre-consultation questionnaire, the results could still be used to justify council decisions at a later date

     
  14. Wendy Armitage, 28. March 2018, 12:49

    Diane and Andy: I note that the questionnaire is still active on the WCC website which means the council is knowingly continuing to collect questionable data which could still be used to support a council position.

     
  15. Trish Janes, 28. March 2018, 14:38

    Calling this exercise “consultation” just exposes the council’s lack of skill in properly involving residents in its decisions. Apparently it was intended as a teaser, to raise interest in the real consultation process that will start soon. It is more likely to discourage responses. The questions were rhetorical; they could have been presented as examples of the questions the council is seeking to answer. There is certainly no need for WCC to waste time analysing the result. The council should establish a group to help them gain experience in effective consultation and to give feedback on each exercise before it is launched.

     

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