Dialogue before decisions: Cull

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says while he will not be introducing ''radical'' changes to consultation, he wants the council to get more well-informed input before issues get to the decision stage.

Mr Cull said it might be possible to do that by extending what had already been done with the city's Your City, Our Future project, which included extensive public input through forums and workshops well before final options were put together.

In the past few years, there has been increasing criticism of the council's consultation process.

In 2008, then council leaders mayor Peter Chin, councillor Richard Walls and chief executive Jim Harland told the Otago Daily Times the public consultation process had become confrontational and was being misused by special-interest groups, leading to delays in decision-making.

Similar arguments have been articulated by other longer-serving councillors who are still on the local authority.

Mr Cull campaigned in the last election, in part, on better consultation.

In his pre-election profile in the Otago Daily Times he claimed a majority of councillors had not genuinely listened to the public.

He suggested a model where consultation was done before issues got to council committees or the council itself for final decisions.

Mr Cull said he wanted to improve consultation ''in order to get more well-informed expert opinion from the community''.

He said the city had achieved ''quite a bit'' from the Your City, Our Future consultation.

The Your City, Our Future forum attracted nearly 200 people last July from a wide variety of organisations.

The results of its work would be to update the Dunedin's various strategies, in the light of the problems the city faces.

''That's fine, but I recognised the potential to go a bit further,'' Mr Cull said.

In future, other issues could be dealt with using the same ''blank slate'' approach, where consultation was done more widely and at an earlier stage.

The idea might be to take a specific issue and ''ask what you want it to be like, and how do you get there?''.

As with the Your City, Our Future forum, the council could form working parties with community representatives to consider the issues and help develop solutions.

''It becomes pro-active, rather than reactive.''

While the new council would not necessarily be taking ''a radical change of direction'', Mr Cull said building on the platform of the consultation model for Your City, Our Future might help deal with the public's view of the consultation process.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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