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.