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Building an engagement strategy workshop example

Communicating the Risk - Harbour erosion in Western Bay of Plenty

Focus Inner harbour erosion affecting properties in Western-Bay of Plenty District requires the development of a new Council policy. Public engagement on this issue needs to take into account the divergent character of the affected communities, historical treatment of erosion issues, and likely public expectations of Council to provide for mitigation. A facilitated workshop was convened by Western Bay of Plenty District Council to support the development of a harbour erosion engagement strategy.

A half day workshop, run with staff from WBPDC with expertise in strategic policy development, land use planning, civil engineering, parks & public land management, community development, iwi liaison and communications.

The meeting was facilitated by Margaret Kilvington as a trial of the framework for building an engagement strategy for natural hazard & land use planning.

The meeting ran through stages of (i) goals, scope, risks & opportunities (ii) hazard complexity (iii) context assessment (iv) stakeholder analysis (v) existing perceptions (vi) building knowledge activities (vii) preparing for decisions (viii) first steps

Goals of the engagement strategy

Establishing a clear goal for the engagement was important. The workshop participants decided on the goal of :

Certainty, consistency, and a high level of community acceptance regarding roles and responsibilities for inner harbour erosion, including: when & how it will be addressed, how it will be paid for, and how sustainable it will be”

They identified several sub goals to achieve this including: (i) agreement over the technical information (ii) acceptance of each community’s ‘ranking’.

Building blocks

(context analysis, stakeholder analysis etc.)

The participants had a rich and varied understanding of the communities and the history of the area and were able to quickly identify likely issues, and important aspects to include in an engagement approach.

They noted that communities were not fully aware of the natural hazard situation and building this awareness was critical to future decision-making and acceptance of roles and responsibilities.

Building knowledge, preparing for decisions, first steps

The workshop identified several options for building knowledge about the hazard situation, such as kitchen workshops, field days and public talks. They also considered useful ‘hot topics’ (such as changes to insurance) that would help gain traction.

First steps included involving political representatives in developing the engagement strategy, and assessing what appetite Council had for involvement in issues affecting private property.

A proposed possible overall focus for community input into the harbour erosion policy was the development of criteria for a contestable fund.

Key points about method

Referring at all stages back to the primary goals of the engagement strategy kept the discussion on track

It was useful to have an independent facilitator who was familiar with the framework for developing an engagement strategy.

The collective team approach seemed to work well and helped build a shared responsibility and understanding of the issue across all areas of council activity.

More information? Marc Fauvel, Senior Policy Analyst, Western Bay of Plenty District Council