Identifying and Understanding your Audience

It is important to identify your key audiences and stakeholders as part of your consultation plan. Be aware that these may change through the plan development process. As part of identifying and understanding your audience, you should:

  • clearly determine who they might be: residents' associations, tangata whenua, government agencies, other local authorities, utility operators, industry/business, professional associations, environmental groups, local residents
  • be inclusive
  • develop consultation objectives and actions for each audience or stakeholder group, assessing their different levels of understanding and needs and tailoring your objectives accordingly
  • keep and maintain records of the contact details for any iwi authorities, any relevant planning documents (recognised by an iwi authority within your region/district) and areas of the region or district over which one or more iwi authorities exercise kaitiakitanga.

Once you have identified your audience, you should think about the values, views and agendas of various audiences and devise strategies to deal with this. Some options include:

  • meeting iwi authorities, or other relevant tangata whenua groups, on a marae
  • timing the meetings to suit audiences, which may involve evenings and weekends
  • communicating appropriately to ensure consultation is tailored to the audience level of understanding and towards their interests
  • holding facilitated meetings involving tangata whenua and other cultures
  • being prepared to break into smaller groups to discuss specific topics or important values.

As part of your communication strategy, you should also consider providing options that meet people's needs for involvement: for example, consultation that is area- or locality-specific, rather than the broader picture. Often it is useful to use relevant and real-world examples for the people being consulted. Local residents are generally interested in local matters that affect them directly, so deal with these first and then move to broader issues.

Different ways to get people involved in consultation include:

  • developing a database of interested people and their desired level of involvement: some people will wish to actively participate in consultation whereas others will just want to be kept informed
  • advertising in the newspaper (that is, providing more than the required statutory notice), in local publications, or council newsletters
  • providing information about the plan development process and any proposed and current plan changes on the council website
  • possibly using professional media (and/or marketing) to get the plan in an accessible and readable form; but manage any media input carefully
  • focus groups on issues or areas, with a mix of representatives, interests or perspectives.

At some stage in the consultation process, you should consider bringing together stakeholders with different, and sometimes conflicting, expectations about the plan, so that different views can be discussed. This allows various stakeholders to be educated about other people's views and may help set realistic expectations. Bringing together different stakeholders may also provide for some negotiation on particular issues or proposed provisions, and enable some compromises to be agreed on.

Engaging tangata whenua in discussions with other stakeholders can act to improve people's understanding of the issues that may affect tangata whenua. You could consider running focus groups on specific issues for tangata whenua and then integrating these discussions into the main consultation process.