You wouldn't normally associate imaginative storytelling and orchestral soundtracks with council planning processes, but Hauraki District Council has broken the mould.
Keen to reach people who might not normally participate in its 10-year plan consultation, the council has released an innovative story called Alice in Our Place/ Nā Alice i tā mātou rohe.
Written and designed by council staff and loosely based on the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the story is available in print and online and sets the scene for future challenges facing the district while asking for feedback on its plans and proposed community projects.
Hauraki District Mayor Toby Adams says collaborating with Youth Arts NZ (YANZ) and composer Matthew Beardsworth, who wrote an original soundtrack for the online version of the story, was the icing on the cake for the innovative project.
"Working with YANZ to create a musical soundtrack for our story meant we were able to tap into a pool of enormous young talent like Matthew, and support youth arts at the same time," the Mayor said.
The story of YANZ is inspiring in itself. Founded in 2017 by then 17-year-old musician and entrepreneur Matthew Goldsworthy, who noticed a lack of opportunities for young people interested in the creative arts, the social enterprise helps youth launch their arts careers by connecting them with opportunities for paid work.
Now 21 and YANZ chief executive, Goldsworthy says Beardsworth is the most talented composer he's ever worked with and Alice in Our Place fitted the organisation's kaupapa perfectly.
"Traditional council engagement can make young people switch off but with so many big issues affecting our future, it's now more important than ever that we're [youth] involved in local decision-making. YANZ is all about making things more accessible for young people and bringing in creativity is a key part of engaging a youth perspective," he said.
For Beardsworth, who has autism, music has always been a natural form of expression. A member of the Auckland Symphony Orchestra, the 21-year-old wants to compose film soundtracks in future and jumped at the opportunity to add music to the storyline of Alice in Our Place.
"I really related to the story aspect of Alice in Our Place. Music is an intuitive process for me, it happens organically. It's easier to explain what I've done in hindsight than at the time. I hear it in my head before I write it," he said.
Although YANZ is based in Auckland, Goldsworthy has plans to expand into the regions. In the meantime, he encourages young creatives in the Hauraki district to sign up to the organisation's fortnightly newsletter via its website, follow them on social media and possibly even think about joining a new YANZ youth advisory group.
"We have a whole bunch of opportunities in the creative arts for young people and we want to engage further afield [than Auckland], especially into regions that don't have as many creative pathways," he said.
Mayor Adams knows Alice in Our Place won't be everyone's cup of tea, but he says feedback from the community so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
"Last week students from a local school presented their ideas to us after reading Alice in Our Place. They could easily see what we were proposing and they gave us some really good ideas. I have no doubt this was because the document is so engaging and easy to understand," he said.
"We wanted to try something fresh in the hope we would reach some of the people who don't usually engage with us and it doesn't get much better than that."