Before embarking on any consultation process, you should be clear on its purpose and communicate this to those being consulted. The purpose could include:
- communicating the process and key messages
- identifying issues and ways to resolve them
- ascertaining community views and opinions in order to achieve better results
- meeting the statutory requirements for consultation which includes government agencies (for example promoting consistency among policies and plans), local authorities that may be affected (for example cross-boundary issues), and tangata whenua (through iwi authorities)
- addressing community concerns over particular plan policies.
You should also clearly communicate during consultation how the views and information gathered during consultation will feed into plan development. This will change depending on what stage of the plan development process you are up to. For example, consultation before plan notification is more likely to be an informal and two-way process in nature; but consultation after notification will generally be more formal and informative.
Consultation can also act to increase the awareness of the role of councils, plans and the RMA in general. Educating people being consulted can cause delays in achieving your purpose.