Executive summary

Asset management, consultation, and accountability.

Audit New Zealand reviewed local government long-term planning for the period from 2021 to 2031.1 To support long-term planning, we reviewed local authority consultation documents. We considered how well assets and infrastructure were covered. We gathered lots of information and saw many examples of engaging consultation.

We thought it would be helpful to share some examples of what good engaging consultation on infrastructure issues looks like, alongside a few thoughts and reflections of our own. We hope this report provides a resource for anyone managing assets and interested in examples of how others have engaged with stakeholders.

Long-term planning brings a long-term focus to what, in the case of infrastructural assets, are long-term issues. It helps local authorities be accountable to their communities and facilitates engagement with local stakeholders about plans and choices.

Good quality consultation stimulates the “right debate” and listens to feedback. Good asset management planning supports effective consultation. To ensure that choices are well informed and balance the needs, wants, and expectations of stakeholders, it is important for consultation to be effective.

Audit New Zealand audited the consultation documents of 62 local authorities. Consultation documents varied widely in their length, format, and issues covered. Of the 62 consultation documents we reviewed, 55% or 34 specifically included consultation issues directly related to infrastructure, reflecting its significance, the critical choices about maintaining and investing in it, and the vital services it supports.

All local authority consultation documents allowed readers to provide feedback on infrastructure generally, even if it was not a specific consultation issue.

Effective consultation needs to cover the key issues faced by the local authority and the local area. It has to express them clearly in a way that can be understood and that generates interest. To be engaging, it needs to pose questions and provide enough information to stimulate useful answers.

Our audits indicate that effective consultation shares certain characteristics. This report is based on interesting and notable examples gathered from our audit work.

It poses 10 questions you could ask about your own approach to consultation:

  1. What are our legislative requirements?
  2. What do we need to know?
  3. Are we outward focused?
  4. Are we fairly representing the issues?
  5. Is our information presented in a way that can be readily understood?
  6. Does our information inform discussion?
  7. Are we telling an integrated story?
  8. Are the issues we present consistent with our underlying information?
  9. Are we genuine in seeking feedback?
  10. Are we using appropriate and accessible means to communicate?

1: Audit New Zealand audited 62 local authorities. The remaining local authorities audited by other audit service providers are outside the scope of this report.