Survey about rating services not councillors

The Dunedin City Council is again asking Dunedin residents to rate the council's performance, with the unveiling of the 2011 Residents' Opinion Survey.

However, this year's survey launch last week also came with a request from council acting chief executive Athol Stephens for disgruntled members of the public not to use the opportunity to have a crack at elected representatives. The 4500 surveys were due to begin arrive in randomly-selected Dunedin letterboxes at the long weekend.

Responses will be used to provide a statistically representative snapshot of public views across the city.

However, speaking at the launch, Mr Stephens said the survey was not designed to measure public views on councillors or the mayor.

Past surveys had, on occasion, been used by some to express dissatisfaction with elected representatives, but the public's opportunity to do that came every three years at the ballot box, he said.

"This is not a survey of politicians and what you think of councillors. This is about the services the staff deliver on behalf of the ratepayers, and that's where we want the emphasis to be," he said.

The council budgeted $45,000 for this year's survey, covering the $30,000 paid to Christchurch-based firm Research First to carry out the survey, as well as postage and other costs incurred by the council.

Anyone not randomly selected to take part in the paper survey could still express their views by completing the same survey online, Research First director Roger Larkins said. The two sets of data would not be weighted equally, as those completing online surveys would be self-selected rather than random, but the results of each would be compared, he said.

It was expected up to 1500 paper surveys would be completed and returned, enough to allow "statistical confidence" in the results, he said. Mr Stephens said the survey gave residents an important opportunity to have their say on a variety of services - from street cleaning and rubbish collection to the maintenance of parks and reserves.

Results were used by council departments to gauge the effectiveness of their operations and could prompt councillors to take action, he said.

The actions that resulted could be seen in the push to improve the look and feel of South Dunedin, and greater investment in the development of cycleways.

"We do listen to what people say and, hopefully, what they say translates, ultimately, into action."

The survey, launched in 1994, was in its 18th year, and this year's surveys were due by May 20. Results were expected to be made public in June.


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