ORC gets to grips with online consultation

David Parker. Photo: RNZ
David Parker. Photo: RNZ
Community consultation must begin soon for the Otago Regional Council’s ‘‘not-fit-for-purpose’’ regional policy statement if it is to meet Minister for the Environment David Parker’s deadlines.

Among the changes made at the council’s strategy and planning committee meeting last week is a new requirement that staff seek expert advice when designing the online consultation.

An updated engagement report to be tabled at today’s council meeting says the regional policy statement does not contain ‘‘rules’’, but ‘‘establishes the framework for Otago's regional and district plans in which resource management policies, objectives and rules will sit’’.

The far-reaching strategy into which all other plans must fit — including the Dunedin City Council’s district plan, or 2GP — is due to be notified in November, council documents show.

Consultation begins next month.

Last week, at the meeting in Dunedin, councillors expressed concern over the online-centric consultation strategy recommended by planners in order to speed the process along to meet Mr Parker’s demands.

Yesterday, chairwoman Marian Hobbs said despite initial concerns of some councillors the council was now embracing the opportunity for better engagement.

‘‘I think that once they’ve got over that scare that an online survey has somehow been contaminated from Russia or the Ukraine — or wherever ... there is that other side that says this is a way to involve people. And one thing that is a real problem for regional councils as such is that the general public doesn't have a clue what they do,’’ Ms Hobbs said.

Ecosystems and biodiversity; energy and infrastructure; hazards and risks; historical and cultural values; natural features and landscapes; and urban form and development were among the topics in the strategy document.

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