Auckland Council is currently consulting with residents on its 2015-2025 Long Term Plan (LTP). This is an important document, as it sets out the Council’s budget over the next ten years. This is a period in which Auckland has to make some tough choices, including whether it should raise more money to pay for an expanded transport plan. (The City Rail Link, a key project for the city, is expected to start regardless, but it’s going to be harder to pay for other public transport infrastructure without additional money.)

If you haven’t yet submitted, I’d encourage you to do so via the Council’s online submission form. Or, if you want a more straightforward way to submit Generation Zero has released their submission guide following up their alternative LTP. You can read their plan at fixourcity.co.nz.

The other week, Matt put up a post summarising the data on who had submitted on the LTP as of 19 February. (More data was published on 1 March.) He highlighted a few interesting aspects of the feedback, including what submitters were highlighting as priorities for spending. There is a big desire for more spending on public transport and cycling, which is great to see.

The most striking data was on the demographics of the submitters. Simply put: Council isn’t getting feedback from a representative set of Aucklanders. Some groups are systematically underrepresented, while others are massively overrepresented.

To illustrate this point, I compared the demographics of LTP submitters with Auckland’s actual demographics from the 2013 Census. Here’s the summary table:

LTP submitter demographics vs Auckland demographics

As you can see, there are some groups that show up in large numbers to have their say:

  • Men – 49% of Auckland’s population, but 62% of LTP submitters to date
  • NZ Europeans – overrepresented in LTP submissions by 50%
  • People aged 55 or older – overrepresented by 80% or more in LTP submissions

Other groups are underrepresented by comparable margins:

  • Maori, Pasifika and Asian people – underrepresented by 62%, 81%, and 73%, respectively
  • People aged under 25 – underrepresented by 70% or more.

In other words, Auckland is a young, multicultural city where young people and non-European people don’t have much of a say in Council feedback.

Here’s another view of the data on the age of submitters versus the age of Aucklanders as a whole. The age profile of LTP submitters is almost the inverse of the age profile for the whole population!

LTP submitters and Auckland age structure chart

This poses some serious challenges for Auckland Council (and other local governments, probably). Councils rely heavily upon submission and consultation processes to help inform their decisions about what to build and how to write urban planning rules. It’s not the sole input to decisions – which sometimes causes some people to kvetch that Auckland Council’s not listening to them – but it is an important one.

If the demographics of submitters are biased, we can’t necessarily rely upon consultation feedback as a guide to what the public wants. If half of Auckland is under the age of 35, and almost half are Maori, Pasifika and Asian, while most submitters are middle aged to retired and disproportionately white, should we trust the data? And what could we do instead to gather more representative data?

Fortunately, Auckland Council does seem to be using a few alternative approaches to getting feedback on the LTP. This includes an independent phone survey of 4,200 Aucklanders selected to be demographically representative. Depending upon how they ask the questions, this may be a more valuable source of insight into actual Aucklanders’ preferences than the standard consultation forms.

The Council is also running a series of meetings, recognising that some people prefer to talk about the issues rather than fill in an online form. In a comment on Matt’s post, Ben Ross reported back on the discussion at an LTP meeting in the Otara-Papatoetoe local board:

the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board Have Your Say Sessions in which the Pacific (and Maori) people were VERY vocal in making their thoughts known.

I was the sole white person there at the Otara-Papatoetoe LB session last night (didnt bother me one bit) and their views were consistent:
Low UAGC
Better east west transport links especially from Otara to Wiri and the Airport
Upgrade of Otara Town Centre
And socio-economics was a big concern as well

It is definitely good that Auckland Council’s using a few different mechanisms to get feedback on the LTP – provided that it’s all weighted up and reported together. But even if it puts the effort into getting a meaningfully representative set of views on the LTP, it probably isn’t doing the same thing in the multifarious consultations it does on smaller issues.

I don’t have a good solution to this – although I have a few ideas. What are your thoughts?

And, once again: if you haven’t yet submitted on the LTP, please consider doing so through the Council’s online form or Generation Zero’s online submission guide.

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38 comments

  1. The numbers should probably be re-run excluding those under 15. Not that they don’t have a voice but you would hope that their parents are making submissions with their kids in mind.

    Its a shame the next category is under represented though. They way to do this is more easy to submit forms, like @GenerationZeros but less biased (for example, their current one would have been more powerful if “more roads” was an option but no one picked it or had all options with either a ‘more’ or ‘less’ spend button)

    1. I disagree. Aucklanders under 15 will be living here the longest and thus they have the greatest long-term stake in the city. While I would expect under-15s to submit at a much lower rate, reflecting the fact that there are few teenagers taking a really active interest in civic matters, we should be listening carefully to those who do.

      Now look at the other end of the spectrum, the over-75s, who are overrepresented by 84%. Given that the average life expectancy in NZ is 81, few of these submitters are likely to outlive the 10-year LTP. We certainly shouldn’t ignore their submissions, but we also shouldn’t build a city around the needs of people who are not going to be around to use it.

      1. I am not saying discount their voice, if anything (especially if they have put real thought into it) their voice should be multiplied.

        I just mean for the purposes of those stats, they should not be included, they should be treated as a bonus – or their weighting added to the 25-45 demographic for their parents.

        1. Ah, I see. I quickly tested that – it doesn’t change the overall picture much. People aged 15-24 are still underrepresented by around 80%, while those over 55 are overrepresented by a smaller (although still significant) margin of 40%+. As before, people aged 65-74 are the most overrepresented group.

  2. Put have-you-say booths at major cultural events like Pasifika, International Cultural Festival etc. That will help get a more accurate picture of needs from a much broader demographic.

      1. Just for clarification, I wasn’t attempting to critique the _views_ of any specific group of submitters. Rather, it was to ask whether the consultation _process_ is obtaining information from a representative group of Aucklanders.

        Even if the sample is not representative, it might be the case that the overall outcome is not too bad. For example, if preferences for investment in PT, walking and cycling are evenly distributed among all age groups and demographics, then it’s not really a problem that we don’t hear from the young or brown. But if that’s not true, then we have a more serious problem.

      2. For the Roading answer, is it specific that it relates to cars? Roading does need to be improved to cater for more/better bus and bike lanes or even removing bottlenecks which also effect buses etc.

        I think people are starting to understand more roads wont solve congestion. Public transport is the answer even if their distorted view is that everyone but themselves should be catching public transport as they are ‘required’ to drive there car.

  3. In days long since past the “village elders” used to make decisions that would benefit the whole group (Not just make sure their property value is maintained).

    The division we now see is disheartening but there is hope. The fact that Generation Zero and Grey power are support similar goals with regards to road spending is a good start.

    It is good to see that some councillors listen to the majority of the people they are supposed to represent. However I think the major issue is a lot of people don’t submit as they feel the local and central government representatives do their “own” thing. Until this changes and people feel that their voice will at least be listened I don’t see this changing. I do hope my kids generation sees a more responsive council.

  4. Meetings are essential as part of a balanced strategy, but certainly the one I went to last week aligned strongly with the profile of submitters identified above. As GenX I was easily the youngest there, attracting some turned heads for turning up late after putting the kids to bed. No mention of an agenda or ‘start time’ in the advertising, and most consultations recently have been drop-ins. Result: I missed most of the stuff I wanted to contribute to. To Council’s credit it was well facilitated and a good open discussion.

    I could suggest lots of methods and tools for consultation, but the LTP exemplifies for me a common Council failing. Presentation of the question suggested the answers were already decided, in this case a binary ‘all or nothing’ choice. Clearly Council wants the ‘all’ answer, reinforced by their interim media feedback.

    Good on GenZero for drawing attention to other possible realities.

    1. I had a similar experience in my area. There were a couple of people in their 20s from Generation Zero, but aside from them I was the youngest (at 30-something) by some margin. There were also very few non-white faces, which doesn’t match the area’s demographics.

      It was well facilitated and a good discussion overall, but I found it a bit intimidating to start with – I didn’t really know what to expect from the advertising, and I felt a bit like I was walking in to a conference I hadn’t registered for. I think more casual outreach at events would be a good idea (as Rob Mayo suggests above), plus reaching out to community groups from under-represented demographics.

      There seemed to be a lot of support for a Something In Between transport plan (articulated as the Basic Plan plus PT or the Auckland Transport Plan minus roads), and this was before GenZero’s Essential budget was announced.

  5. You forgot to mention the Mayor’s slush fund – $250,000 for polling information that he or his office will not tell anyone about. Why make a submission to an organisation that is not transparent and open in its work? And all they want to do is knock down kauri trees!

    1. I certainly agree that there are almost always opportunities to improve communications between governments and citizens. Polling is one way of doing that – an expensive way, though. Based on my (admittedly limited) experience with surveyors, I would expect that $250,000 would get you perhaps 10-20 phone surveys.

      Now, I don’t know what the Mayor is actually surveying on, but there are at least 10-20 major policy questions every year where it is important to have a statistically robust understanding of what Aucklanders are thinking. Right now, for example, the LTP is out for consultation, a light rail plan has been proposed, and people are up in arms about port expansion. I would hope that Council is surveying people on all of those issues.

      Lastly, a perpetual challenge for local governments is clearly and transparently explaining why they want to make certain changes. Often, there is an evidence base that is underutilised in the public debate. But this isn’t always the council’s fault – the media often ignores the evidence and blatantly makes up gibberish to support their own prejudices. (See, e.g., the Herald’s fact-free article from Brian Leyland last week.)

  6. I was at the final of the three sessions for the Papakura Local Board LTP Have Your Say Session last night.
    It was the quietest of the three but then we had the privilege of having our Deputy Mayor, Councillors Cashmore and Casey as the Councillor in attendance (in comparison to the busiest session just after lunch where Councillor Brewer was present).
    Okay this time I was not the sole white person there but was the youngest.
    However, while the discussion was moulded around the five LTP main questions and sub-questions in good old fashioned Southern Auckland spirit we went wide as well especially when it came to the Local Board priorities.

    Conclusion for the evening session?
    UAGC kept at $385
    Fuel Tax was preferred over Toll
    CRL got luke warm support but when I explained to the two commuters that go Papakura to Albany and Takapuna that the CRL allows North Shore Line (and the Airport and Botany Lines (Heavy or Light Rail)) to be built then the CRL got a very positive response
    Willing to take the 3.5% rates rise but Council needs to be very proactive on how it spends it
    Support for the New South Auckland Bus Network
    Want Pukekohe Electrification to hurry up
    I passed round copies of the Generation Essentials Budget which got warm support from the residents but the Councillors were more coolish on it
    Development Auckland CCO got a very positive response especially if it aligns with upgrading the Papakura Metropolitan Centre
    Freight lanes as a idea on State highway one and maybe some arterials
    New revenue source was mentioned based on number of residents per dwelling (as recognised by last Census) to supplement property tax

    If Council want to do a big capture of the LTP then it should be at Pasifika this weekend – once it shorts the Transport omnishambles out first

    1. Interesting, the per-capita tax idea was raised at ours as well, mainly backed by a couple of over-50s with big properties…

      I think this might become a recurring theme, but based on the UKs experience of it in the 1990s (I was flatting as a student then) it is a terrible idea. Riots, etc…

        1. Well actually I think that was part of the issue with the poll tax. It was a lightning rod for peoples’ feelings about Thatcher in general. If it had been better thought through and implemented by a less polarising leader, I suspect there may have been a different outcome.

          1. Poll tax was hugely mismanaged and highly political. For instance, I lived for a while in Hackney (one of the UK’s poorest boroughs) and had to pay 890 pounds a year in poll tax, and then i moved to Westminster (the richest borough) and only had to pay 36 pounds. Stupidly political. Manifestly grossly unfair. Under those conditions, who wouldn’t want to burn shit down?

      1. You should get a discount on your rates if you have more people living in your house not have to pay more! To incentivise retirees and single occupants to downsize and make way for families who need the bedrooms. Not reward them for staying in over-sized properties when they have already been rewarded by huge capital gains.

        1. That is done through the Property Taxation if the housing supply mechanisms are working properly

          Reason why those with more occupants in a single house pay more than say a couple is consumption of services that general rates do not capture. I am not talking about rubbish and water where (apart from South Auckland and the Isthmus) where it is user pays but things like libraries and parks that can not be or not easily at the minimum user pays.

          Example is the house behind us is mum, dad and 8-10 kids. For argument sake they would consume more park and library resource than say my household of three yet we pay the exact same rates per value of property….

        2. Just a general observations from the Southern Auckland Long Term Plan Have Your Say Sessions I have picked up thus far (apart from what I mentioned above).

          It was around transport and the Development Auckland CCO.

          When I mentioned the Gen0/Transport Blog Essentials Transport Budget, as I noted in my earlier comment it was received coolishly by the two Councillors and the Deputy Mayor present (it was not dismissed out of hand so let me be extremely clear there). So I got Franklin Ward Councillor Cashmore, and our Deputy Mayor to flesh their side of the argument out. Personally I knew where this was going but I was going to see if they could articulate their point to which they did.

          Cr Cashmore I have respect for after he articulated a point about heavy industry last year when no other Councillor apart from Penrose could. But what was being articulated last night was that the Essentials Transport Budget (note from my end that the BTN and APTN is not any better) has a hole in it and that hole is in Southern Auckland. Now don’t shoot me here I am just reporting back a critique (I gave one back as well). Southern Auckland is tipped for large if not the largest amount of both residential and employment growth – even more so than the City Centre itself. Reason? The South houses four of the five Heavy Industrial Complexes and those complexes are experiencing both growth and are nearly out of land until Drury South and later Glenbrook come on stream. Coupled with the South housing 38% of the population of Auckland and all things considered with NIMBYism on the Isthmus growing to 45% by the end of the Auckland Plan you hit an acute situation at hand.

          YES the South will still commute to the City Centre but as I just pinged Simon Wilson from Metro Magazine on:

          Metro @MetroMagNZ
          “It’s easier for people in the inner city to escape to the country than for people who live on outskirts to drag themselves into the centre”

          Ben Ross @BenRoss_AKL
          @MetroMagNZ if they “want” to go to the Centre
          MoTransport report says the South “doesnt”

          That Ministry of Transport report out last year strongly suggested Southern Auckland commutes within herself primarily and looking at future trends will continue to do so.

          That report which I commented on in specific to the South can be seen here and here:
          http://voakl.net/2014/08/21/aucklands-commuting-journeys-a-series-major-non-city-centre-employment-centres-overview/
          http://voakl.net/2014/09/08/aucklands-commuting-journeys-a-series-concluding-remarks/

          Now before Patrick pipes up everyone in that Have Your Say Session is aware of students and off peak leisure trips using the networks to go north from the South. That was beside the point. The point being and as Cashmore articulated and the session agreed with last night is that the South is growing and set to grow faster in housing and jobs (from her Industry). The South commutes within herself for the most part.

          Transport investment coupled with integrated land use planning needs to realise this and this is where East West linking across the South, links like the Manukau South Link to be in position (Pasifika will prove that particular point this weekend), three new stations between Papakura and Pukekohe being needed all come into play.

          NOW, whether the Council and Auckland Transport actually follow through and do the above is yet to be seen. However the rumblings coming from the Southern Councillors and with the Deputy Mayor nodding realise at the absolute minimum there is a massive hole in planning down here and it needs to be rectified and budgeted for soon.

  7. Whether the council adjust the number based on population representation depends on the adjusted result is desirable to the council or not.

    There should be a formal way of doing this.

  8. Perhaps Local Boards need to be equipped to run more consultation processes – in theory they are better placed to engage with the community.

    Do the stats for property ownership match up with the submission rates? I dont have a problem with older people or home owners providing more feedback – they have the time and passion to consider issues carefully, as well as the experience in life, in business and stakeholdings in the community – but the feedback has to be reviewed by humans who can eliminate the obvious bias and identify blatant self-interest. But lets not go crazy and suggest that major city decisions should be influenced by school kids, visitors & new migrants based on a demographic share. Come to think of it, I wonder if people on their “OE” are taking part? Another good one would be a form to fill out at the airport “why are you leaving Auckland for good?” Heh.

    These days we cannot accuse council of not providing adequate clear information. Its everywhere!

    I hope everybody here is on the Peoples Panel. It’s pretty cool. It could be a little more “fun” and create interesting hypothetical scenarios that gauge opinion from a wider audience, or target specific groups (migrants, kids etc).

    1. “lets not go crazy and suggest that major city decisions should be influenced by school kids, visitors & new migrants based on a demographic share.”

      Why not? The long-term success of cities depends upon their ability to attract new residents, retain the people who grow up in them, and attract new businesses. If we are interested in not declining economically, we have to make sure we’re listening carefully to the people who might choose to stay here or go elsewhere.

  9. It would be interesting to do the same analysis but based on $ paid in rates rather than per capita. Maybe the people who pay more are more likely to submit.

  10. It would be interesting to have a tick box on the forms to indicate if you own property in Auckland, or in fact how many properties you own in Auckland. I would bet a fortune that there is a massive correlation between respondents and property ownership, thus reinforcing the fact this is just an exercise in self interest and protection, hence the massive representation of the 50’s+ group.

  11. The percentages shown must be the people who filled out the demographic details which are optional. I guess the question is, what is the percentage of people who have filled out the demographic details. Maybe a lot more younger people have had their say however were not interested in filling out the demographic section ? Unlikely however. The trend is clear.

  12. Surely the over representation of “Other” at 6284% is worth a mention?

    It’s not even highlighted…

    Who are these “Other” ethnicities and why do they super uber over giga feedback so much?

    Something smells off.

    1. Sorry, thought that was too obvious to be worth mentioning. It’s a combination of two things:
      1. The “other” category is probably used to record “non-complying” inputs, like people who want to identify with multiple ethnicities rather than ticking a single box. Stats NZ typically makes some effort to classify these types of responses, but Auckland Council probably doesn’t.
      2. When surveying, it’s common to get large percentage differences when dealing with really small numbers, like the <0.1% of the NZ population that cannot be classified into any of the other ethnic categories available.

      I guess you could ascribe it to some sort of conspiracy instead, but why bother?

      1. Couple too many “probablys” in there for my liking. Would be nice to know the actuals.

        Having failed statistics I’ll go with your “large percentage differences” in small numbers, but over 6000%?

        That seems like a hella whopping difference..

  13. Hmmm. I haven’t submitted yet but clearly I will have to tick Female, Pacific 15-24 just in case someone decides to scale it.

    1. A 25 year old Pacific woman from Upper Harbour just told them to cut spending, bring in road tolls, increase the uniform charge and have nothing to do with a development agency!

  14. Orally submitted at the Wellington RLTP hearing yesterday. Felt like a total waste of time. The plan is for massive spending on roads and dregs for all the rest. Just as it has always been. Planning for a 1960’s future.

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