You know what must really spoil your day, if you're an elected official?

You spend months - more likely years - planning a change. Maybe a new road layout or a park.

It goes through a design process, a bunch of experts look at it, it gets costed, consulted, fiddled around with and, at last, the grand plan manages to scrape a majority vote.

It gets built at exorbitant cost and ... the people hate it.

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It doesn't do what they thought it was going to do. It made one thing better, but four other things worse. It wasn't worth the money.

Just put it back the way it was, they say. But you can't. Too expensive. A bunch of boffins would have to admit they were wrong. And not everything about it is bad, surely?

It happens too often in local government. Things seem to get railroaded through because the money is there, a "key stakeholder" is keen or there's an election coming up.

So when I see a council trying to have a go at live-trialling an idea early before going down the grand plan route, I say good on them.

Instead of outlaying top-shelf sums of cash into something that might not work, put a bit more in near the start to get some real evidence - one way or another.

Modelling, advice, artist's impressions - these are all useful tools but no substitute for hard data and being able to just try stuff in the field.

It's what Tauranga City Council is trying to do with the Mount cruiseway and Pilot Bay one-way trial.

It's not a perfect example, because a fair bit of time and money has already been sunk into parts of the idea.

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Sneaking a previously-rejected project in the back door with taxpayer funding and a vague "co-design" promise is not a great start for getting the public on board, especially for a council that has given rise to a lot of trust issues.

But this trial still salvageable if it gets the next bits right and the council makes a real effort to build rapport with the Mount North community.

I don't know if the cruiseway idea is a goer, but I think it has enough merit and support to give it a shot. If it's going to fail, let's have that happen early.

I'd like to see councils taking this approach more often. Call it "fail fast" if you need a catch phrase.

Rotorua Lakes Council is looking at a couple of new options for Marguerita St and already facing a backlash. It seems like the kind of project where a couple of trials would, in my view, provide a much higher quality of feedback than words and pictures.

For this to work, however, everyone involved - residents included - needs to come at it with an open mind.

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