A Rotorua Lakes Council trial for a "less formal" style of consultation has been deemed a success by some councillors.

In November the council held a new style of hearing, a world cafe session, to receive feedback on the draft spatial plan.

Submissions to the draft plan were received from 113 individuals, groups, organisations (including iwi), agencies and school students.

Of those, 30 attended the world cafe session which involved elected council members meeting with members of the public for an open, group conversation.


"This was designed to encourage more people to have a say by providing an alternative, less formal way for submitters to be heard by elected members," a council spokeswoman said in a statement.

Following that a traditional, formal style of hearing was held in December when 25 submitters were heard.

Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said the more informal session went well and "was very worthwhile doing".

"There were people who came with a particular focus and people who opened our eyes to new possibilities. They came with fresh and new ideas.

"As an exercise in engagement it was definitely worthwhile doing and it was a great use of our time and resources."

He said he had heard people say the formal hearing could be intimidating.

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"This was definitely much more informal and the wider the engagement and the more we can get the views of our community the better."

Councillor Karen Hunt said the session was "a bit like a family sitting around the dinner table".

"I think it's a far better way for the community to hear each other's views. We saw that people's ideas would often broaden and change.

"The submissions process is usually a static process where people talk at the council, this was people talking together about the things that have an impact on them."

She said it was "far more inclusive" and the council was able to get more than it usually would from the submissions process.

"The other way is very last century, it hasn't been changed in a long time, and it surely is not fit for purpose anymore.

"The new way provides an opportunity for the residents who will one day inherit Rotorua to be engaged in it."

Elected members will now deliberate on submissions received and provide direction on any changes they want.

The final plan is expected to be adopted in June.

Whether the council uses this type of less formal style of hearing submissions in future will be for elected members to decide.