Here are some ideas for you to consider when developing your next consultation document.
They are sourced from nine of the best LTP consultation documents in 2021, according to the judges of the 2021 Taituarā Great Consultation Documents Competition. (The only one I couldn’t locate was Greater Wellington Regional Council’s document, so apologies for this omission!)
I hope you find plenty of inspiration in these LTP consultation documents. I have included links to the full consultation documents so you can review any which are particularly useful to you.
And, of course, you are welcome to contact me if you would like help with the planning and/or writing of your consultation document.
Central Hawke’s Bay District Council
Introduction – The introduction from the Mayor includes an invitation to come along and see the infrastructure discussed in the consultation document and unvarnished communication of the issues.
“We now know more than we have ever known about the state of our assets. The truth is quite frankly, frightening.”
“We are now left with failing 100-year-old pipelines, failed wastewater treatment plants despite major community investment, and earthquake prone buildings despite the expectation they had been strengthened. Our reality is that we now require major investment in nearly every aspect of Council’s services.”
“Throughout this consultation we invite you to see for yourself the realities of the challenges we face. We will open our doors to our wastewater treatment plants, landfill, solid waste operations and other activities, for you to see, hear and touch, first hand, the infrastructure we are left with today. We encourage you to come along to one of our consultation events or open days to learn more, so you can make an informed submission.”
The big challenges – This document provides a clear, concise presentation of the big challenges facing the council is shown on page 7.
Four key questions flow logically from the big challenges. These are introduced on two summary pages, followed by more detailed presentation of each issue and the options to address it. It is clear what the preferred option is, and these are clearly marked with this image:
Emphasis – The most important text is in colour and bold, and the narrative still makes sense if you only read these sections.
The four challenges – Each challenge has its own colour palette, which clearly differentiates it. The four key challenges are followed by a summary of the infrastructure strategy and then the financial strategy (which has a nice heading of ‘Crunching the Numbers’).
Images – The use of images of young people throughout the document works really well.
Hauraki District Council
Contents page – This document has a really fun contents page which looks like a game board. It tells the story of what’s inside, and encourages readers to select the content of most interest to them.
Introduction – A creative introduction speaks directly to the reader as ‘you’ and a personal invitation to a VIP tour of Hauraki District Council.
Storytelling example – This is the quirkiest, most story-oriented consultation document I have ever come across. Even if you don’t want to go this far with your own LTP consultation document, it’s worth a look to stretch your thinking about what is possible.
Catchy headings – The document includes fun headlines, such as the rhyme in this one – “Water pain on the Hauraki Plains”
The rates impact is clearly explained – Clear information about the impact of the proposed rates increase for different types of properties is linked to the value of those properties (on pages 22 to 23).
Navigation of the document – There are clear directions to the readers about what to do next, depending on their interests, and what they want to give feedback on. The ‘doors’ to go through to find out more are a good fit for the tone of this document, and lead through to summaries of each issue and options to consider.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council
A comprehensive contents page – This table of preferred options provides a lot of substance at a glance, including the cost, timing, the impacts on rates, and where to go in the document to find more details.
Concurrent consultations – It also includes a short but useful summary of concurrent consultations on changes to user charges and the review of the Significance and Engagement Policy (on page 7) .
Consultation topics – The image on page 16 provides clarity on what topics are being consulted on, and in what order, to help readers navigate to the details they are most interested in.
Independent Auditor’s Report – this official sign off is given the same design treatment as the rest of the document, instead of including it as a plain letter (see page 35).
Matamata–Piako District Council
Message from the Mayor – The Mayor invites all kinds of feedback in this message:
“This Council is committed to engaging with the community so we can make informed decisions – tell us what you think by 19 April at mpdc.govt.nz. The good, the bad and the ugly. If you don’t like the proposed rates increases, tell us what you’d remove – or what other Council services you’d cut. But if you like an idea, make sure you tell us that too. We genuinely read and consider all the submissions we receive before making final decisions, and we want to hear from you.”
The budget – The explanation of how the budget has been set is related to household budgeting:
“Just like when you set a budget at home, and you start by listing all your regular costs – like groceries, power, internet etc. Our regular costs are things like operating pools, keeping our library books current and relevant, checking playgrounds are safe, providing animal control services and much more. And just like your budget at home has to increase over time as costs like power and insurance go up, our costs to deliver our services increase too.”
Asset management – I like the use of the heading and summary text about the asset management lifecycle:
“We’re looking after what we’ve got”
“We have approximately $663 million invested in our assets – that’s our roads, our pipes, our treatment plants, our buildings and more.
“We spend almost $20 million each year on maintenance and operations, and $13 million per year (on average) on renewing assets that have reached or are nearing the end of their life.”
Depreciation – It even includes an understandable explanation of depreciation:
“Everyone knows that their house roof needs replacing roughly every 25 years. If we were smart, we’d put aside a little bit of money every month, so that when the roof needs replacing we have the money there ready to go.”
Big decisions – Projects to do, as well as the timeframes and trade-offs (things the Council is choosing not do) are included in a ‘big decisions’ section from page 11–13, followed by more detail about these projects.
THINGS WE THINK WE SHOULD FOCUS ON (Years 1-3):
• Te Aroha Spa
• Facing the rubbish problem head on
• Additional water sources for Morrinsville
• Revitalising our town centres
• Mountain bike skills and dog park in Te Aroha
• Improving walking and cycling connections
• Dog park in Matamata
THINGS WE’RE COMPROMISING ON:
Equally as hard as choosing what to prioritise is choosing what isn’t a priority right now. Things that we are not planning in the next ten years:
• Matamata Bypass
• Morrinsville Events Centre
• Morrinsville civic facilities
Topic summaries – The list of proposed projects is followed by excellent summaries of each of the topics. (See pages 16 to 51.)
Finance heading – I like the heading for the financial section: ‘How it all adds up’.
Submission form – The submission form seeks feedback on the projects proposed over the next three years, and indicates the preferred option through coloured text. It also provides a quick reminder of the other projects, and asks a general question related to them – what do you think about our plans for our other projects? (See pages 60-61).
New Plymouth District Council
Themes – This document groups the spending proposals under three themes (called ‘Big Calls’) that either drive much of the cost increase or are of high community interest.
Key issues are grouped under these themes:
- Fixing our Plumbing (water infrastructure assets)
- Greening our Place (extending tracks and climate action)
- Paying it Forward (building a multi-sports hub)
Pre-consultation summary – A ‘what you have said’ section summarises the pre-consultation feedback gathered on the top 10 issues (see page 7).
Engaging (and relevant) image – I love this picture which relates to the Brooklands Zoo upgrade.
Speaking options – People can select how long they wish to speak for, and at what time of the day.
Selwyn District Council
Choice of images – A signpost indicates what happens next, which aligns with the document title of ‘This Way – Our Map for the Next 10 Years’. The map/signage theme continues throughout the document when discussing each of the eight big decisions.
Updates – The document includes a quick update on project progress since the last LTP (see page 3).
Clarity on the consultation questions – Our Big Decisions’ provides a clear summary of the eight big decisions for which public input is sought (on page 4)
Clever, chronological diagram – This diagram shows how council services are closely integrated with people’s lives over the course of a day.
Timaru District Council
Cover page – The cover has a magazine style, with its promotion of content within the document.
Shared message – The overview is jointly owned by the Mayor and the Chief Executive, with a photo of the two of them together (on page 2).
Feedback options – There are lots of options for providing feedback, including via email and Facebook, or in any creative form which could be an essay, a video, a song or even a piece of artwork.
QR codes – People can scan a QR code to go to the online submission page, or to more information on a topic (such as climate change) on the Council’s website.
Presentation of options – A sales page layout presents the three options. This style is a good match with the overview for this document which talks about the council in business terms.
Summary of previous feedback – Pre-consultation feedback is presented in a colourful yet organised way (on page 11).
Waipa District Council
Updates – Concise highlights from the past three years are included (see pages 6-7).
Summary of previous feedback – The summary of feedback on a previous project (which has informed the LTP) is shown in a colourful way.
Presentation of options – The options tables (e.g. for a Te Awamutu cycling connection, shown below) clearly present the pros and cons of the different options, followed by overview statements.
Do you need to write a consultation document?
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Phone: 021 215 4698