Fewer people are satisfied with the communication, community involvement and engagement of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, prompting a promise from the top boss the council will try harder.
A newly-released residents' survey, taken during June and July, assessed the response of 1311 Bay of Plenty residents. The survey asked people to rate the regional council from their perspective and perceptions.
The main improvement suggested by residents, through the survey, was for better and more community communication. This was seen as better use of ratepayers' money.
Overall, 55 per cent of respondents rated the regional council as good or excellent when asked how satisfied they were. This was up from 51 per cent from a survey carried out in 2018.
A breakdown revealed Rotorua and Taupō residents were more satisfied with the regional council compared to other districts, with Tauranga residents the least satisfied.
However, awareness levels about the difference between the regional council and city or district council services remained low, the survey said.
A separate breakdown of the different districts showed Taupō recorded the highest number (60 per cent) of people stating they had no knowledge of the difference between councils, followed by Kawerau (55 per cent) and Ōpōtiki (53 per cent) then Rotorua (48 per cent). In total, just 22 per cent of people knew the differences between councils.
The most important issues people felt the regional council should be working on were the protection and enhancement of land, air, water quality and wildlife; maintenance of flood protection schemes; and management of plant and animal pests.
Regional council chief executive Fiona McTavish said it was great people's satisfaction levels had increased but the survey was a reminder "that we always need to work hard to make sure we are serving the whole community".
Since 2018, the regional council worked to improve customer experience and held a review into its contact centre, consents and customer service so "it's satisfying to see this has made a measurable impact on our interactions with the community".
However, there was work to be done in better connecting with the community and the regional council would revise its communications strategies "focus on building wider awareness about what we do".
The regional council would also work harder to inform the community of the benefits of its reduced rates - a 120 per cent reduction made possible through its investment company Quayside Holdings.
McTavish said she was surprised only 18 per cent of respondents were aware of this.
Councillor Andrew von Dadelszen said there had been a culture shift at the regional council in recent years since McTavish came on board.
"We've made progress ... but we have to be an organisation that is, especially with consenting and dealing with public, we are there to help. We have to be a 'yes' organisation rather than 'sorry, no'.
"I'm not saying we have to agree to everything but we have to be open so people have the confidence to come to us."
Papamoa Resident and Ratepayers' Association's Peter Powley said a lack of communication was the group's biggest bone of contention.
"We never get consulted. We get consulted after a decision has already been made."
Powley agreed there was confusion around the roles of each council in the Bay area and referenced local buses as an example.
"That's an issue I don't personally understand. When you talk to Tauranga City Council about buses, which is the most common thing that gets discussed at the moment, they say 'that's regional council' but when we ask about bus shelters we're told that city council. So why don't we just have one council looking after everything to do with buses?
"It seems awkward."
Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers' association Glenys Searancke said the findings married with the views of members.
"It is an active guardian of the environment and it increasingly responds to demand for bus services," she said.
Searancke described regional council's elected members as active and effective.
However, there was concern at a lack of awareness of the regional council's functions.
Searancke said the combining of rates with local councils was one fo the reason why people generally did not know what exactly what the regional council was responsible for.
"A six-monthly account outlining just their costs and functions would be so beneficial of the awareness of [the council]."
The survey was carried out between June 14 and July 28, using phone, online and postal questionnaires. Data was collected from 1311 local residents with a margin of error of 2.7 per cent.