It's hoped a new submissions process being trialled by Rotorua Lakes Council will make it easier for people to have their say on the draft spatial plan.
At a meeting of the council's Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee yesterday corporate planning and governance manager Oonagh Hopkins presented the new consultation process.
Under the council's current hearings procedure only those that complete a written submission form are able to speak to elected members.
Ms Hopkins said the proposed changes were a "more council community friendly" way of receiving verbal feedback.
"Over time we are seeing that less people feel comfortable in presenting to council that way.
"Receiving written submissions, as we know, is becoming difficult."
The new process will not remove the existing methods for giving a response but will create additional opportunities to have a say.
"We would like to introduce and run a trial on operating a group session," Ms Hopkins said.
The trial would give members of the community the opportunity to spend time with elected members of council, to discuss the seven objectives in the draft spatial plan.
"It's breaking down some of those barriers," Ms Hopkins said.
"Being receptive to receiving responses in a format that the person who is responding is comfortable in doing so."
Councillor Rob Kent said he had "major concerns" about the new process.
"What you're proposing here is workshops where we tell them what they should be thinking, and I am sorry that's not consultation at all."
However, councillor Charles Sturt said he wanted to take this even further, by taking the group sessions out to community halls.
"I think this is innovative, I think this is a great approach.
"But I also think we need to get out there."
Ms Hopkins said the group sessions would be run more like an expo, with an elected member fronting each one of the objectives.
"People can come in and actually give their response in that setting.
"If they don't want to speak to an elected member they can actually come in and have their opinion recorded on a video."
Councillor Karen Hunt said this was a "really good move".
"We've had a council-centred approach to meetings and we are moving into an environment where the community is the focus.
"We won't just get the professional submitters, the habitual submitters, the kind of people who this environment suits.
"I am happy to toss the old thing, this is a new way to relate to our community."
Consultation on the plan opened on Monday.
For more information on the seven objectives click here.
The seven objectives of the draft spatial plan
1. Build homes that match needs.
2. Create thriving neighbourhoods.
3. Enhance our playgrounds and environment.
4. Support iwi aspirations
5. Create a vibrant city heart.
6. Grow jobs.
7. Build supporting infrastructure.
When can you have your say?
Submissions on the draft spatial plan are open until November 17.
Group sessions will be held from November 17-December 7.
Hearings will begin on December 7.