Council 'fails to engage' with people

By Imran Ali

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Derryn Williamson, left, and Jade Kake brainstorming at a jamming session in Whangarei. Photo / Jone Stone
Derryn Williamson, left, and Jade Kake brainstorming at a jamming session in Whangarei. Photo / Jone Stone

Unsuitable communication, lack of knowledge about local government and lack of faith in community leaders have been identified as reasons behind lack of public engagement with the local authorities, according to a new local movement.

The Global Govjam, a worldwide initiative that focuses on bringing members of the public together to brainstorm ideas and to talk to people on the street on ways to improve local government's interaction with ratepayers, concluded its local workshop in Whangarei yesterday.

The initiative started in Australia about three years ago and this year, Whangarei is the first city in New Zealand and among 20 countries that participated in the 48-hour exchange of ideas.

Just four people took part in Whangarei but co-ordinator Nick Williamson said the number didn't matter because it was a fairly new initiative.

"The theme this year was 'trust' and participants had 48 hours to come up with a service solution for a problem they've identified ...

and as soon as they can, build a prototype that solves the problem before testing it on real people," he said.

Mr Williamson said the four participants identified the lack of public engagement with councils as a problem and took to the streets of central Whangarei for a survey of people aged between 18 and 25.

Questions in the survey included: Do you know your council? Do you know your local councillor, What is your preferred way of communication?

"We found out the current generation didn't know what the council does, none of them knew who their councillor was," participant Derryn Williamson said.

She said the whole idea behind the initiative was to do something practical rather than engage in a talk-fest.

The results of the survey would be available online at www.govjam.org.

Mr Williamson, a former local authority district planner and policy team leader, said councils could use results for future interaction with ratepayers.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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