Developing a plan is the key to any good and effective consultation exercise. The consultation plan should include a communication plan that clearly sets out the purpose and desired outcome, objectives, issues, audience, key messages and strategy for communication throughout the consultation period.
When developing a consultation plan, consider:
- tailoring the consultation process to available resources and political expectations (time, expertise and budgets)
- involving people who are committed, who are effective at listening and communicating
- considering the relevance of any council LGA consultation policy
- proactively thinking about any potential cross-over with any consultation occurring around the same time - including under other legislation - and integrating with other consultation when appropriate
- following any agreed consultation process included in the triennial agreement when preparing, reviewing or changing a regional policy statement
- identifying and understanding your audience
- identifying and planning for consultation with tangata whenua, including an understanding of any additional or specific requirements under Treaty of Waitangi settlements. This should include a plan to identify who the relevant iwi authorities are and, once identified, should consider their capacity to be able to consult and the different timeframes for agreement/approval by the relevant iwi authorities
- the form and type of feedback needed in responding to input from consultation
- being flexible and prepared to change the consultation approach as required, particularly as issues arise that need to be addressed more thoroughly
- having a strategy to manage media involvement in consultation
- considering what worked well and why in previous consultation exercises.
It is important to meet councillors overseeing the plan development process, to check that they are happy with the consultation and communication process. Clear messages from identified and well-informed spokespeople are essential when issues are raised by the community that may be controversial.
Different forms of consultation
Different forms of consultation might include:
- capturing people's attention and interest through the use of easy to understand, catchy media promotions such as advertisements in local papers, newsletters and brochures and using web sites
- establishing a 'brand' or theme so that all information about the plan and the plan development process is readily identifiable. Carry this through to the web site and put all related documents on the web for public access
- holding introductionworkshopsand seminars for public and stakeholder groups. Think about using existing community groups and local personalities to help you
- setting up focus or reference groups for key issues
- holding internal council workshops with key staff to identify issues and concerns that staff may have with existing plan provisions and to test the effectiveness of any proposed provisions. Consider including Council's legal advisors and hearings commissioners as well
- providing notice of likely future plan development processes, including background information on the council website
- preparing a'draft plan'highlighting the future direction with draft issues, objectives, policies and methods. Alternatively, consider preparing an 'issues or options document' that identifies the range of issues identified by the community and internal stakeholders and that explores options for dealing with the issues.
Workshops are particularly useful as they can assist to:
- find out how to best consult with the community
- identify whether you should contract some groups to provide input
- find out who is interested and what aspects of the plan or policy statement is of most interest
- identify particular stakeholders for ongoing consultation.
Workshop topics could include:
- introducing the RMA and how it affects your area
- introducing the plan development process and how it influences the future
- introducing the rationale and need for any plan change or review
- what could change and what is not likely to.