Unitary Plan and All That (Twitter) Spam

Social Media Report for Unitary Plan Out


The report into Social Media during the Unitary Plan feedback (March 16 – May 31) has been released and makes for some interesting reading. Okay never mind the fact I occupied the top spots for Twitter, Facebook and Blog spam during the Unitary Plan debate but, key issues were fleshed out in the social media activity.

From the Executive Summary of the report (seen in the embed below)

Executive summary

This report covers analysis of commentary received through the Shape Auckland digital hub and wider social media channels regarding the draft Unitary Plan. In total this included 6,540 posts and comments (1200 through Shape Auckland and 5,340 through other social media channels). The Shape Auckland digital hub was Auckland council’s website for online engagement on the draft Auckland Unitary Plan. It provided a mechanism for people to take part in the conversation about the plan and share their ideas and feedback. Overall, there were 1200 posts from 376 participants between 24 Feb and 1 June 2013.

The main results were:

  • On average people posted three comments on the site, but some were highly engaged and posted dozens of times. Three per cent of participants posted more than 10 comments, and their posts made up 44% of the total conversation.
  • Participants’ age profile was broadly similar to that of the wider Auckland population, however there were a greater proportion of European participants than the wider Auckland population. While there was a wide geographic spread of participants, the Shape Auckland digital hub forum attracted a relatively high proportion of participants from central and north Auckland, and somewhat fewer from South Auckland.
  • The primary points of discussion were around residential zones, transport, all zones (comments around built design quality and site setback rules), business zones and the addendum (Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) and housing affordability). There were also a large number of comments that did not fit into the council’s coding framework, and have been coded as ‘miscellaneous’ (including back and forth conversation between participants that was off topic, conversation about the consultation process and some comments about the pros and cons of population growth).
  • Much of the discussion on residential zones focused on the pros and cons of residential intensification and apartment living in particular. A number of people raised concerns about the potential for an increase in terraced housing and apartments and the implications this would have for Auckland, while others countered this view and discussed the potential positive aspects of apartment living.
  • Most of the conversation around transport centred on the need for good public transport, the potential positive impacts of greater urban density on the public transport system, and the need to ensure development occurs near transport nodes.
  • Comments around ‘all zones’ were mostly in favour of urban design standards to promote good quality buildings and ensure that apartments in particular were designed and built well. There were also a number of comments regarding set back and height to boundary rules and the implications these could have on the amount of shading, as well as the transitions between zones and the impacts these could have.
  • Business zone comments mainly focused on the degree of intensification and building heights in various zones, and there was some discussion about the pros and cons of encouraging greater density within the Auckland city centre vs having a number of medium density satellite town centres, connected by good transport networks.
  • There was some discussion about the Rural Urban Boundary, and expansion into green field areas and the countryside. Many comments were in favour of protecting rural areas as much as possible and limiting urban sprawl, however a number of people were in favour of using outlying rural land for development rather than having an overly dense metropolitan centre.
  • There was also discussion about house prices in Auckland and the pros and cons around providing affordable housing.


Auckland Council was also interested in the level and content of social media discussion about the Unitary Plan. During the engagement period, 5,340 social media posts about the Unitary Plan were tracked, from a range of platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forum pages (in addition to the 1200 Shape Auckland posts as above). These posts were made by over 1400 authors, who between them had a combined reach of over 1 million followers (some of whom would have received multiple messages and posts about the Unitary Plan).

  • The draft Unitary Plan was a highly canvassed topic in the social media sphere, with some people posting 50 or more tweets, some high profile people posting several tweets, a high number of re-tweets of popular stories, some participants posting 10 or more Facebook posts, and a number of blog sites posting several detailed articles and opinion pieces.
  • The social media commentary was different to other forms of feedback in that a high percentage of the posts were furthering the conversation, talking about the consultation process, encouraging others to take part, pointing out interesting articles and blog posts, and passing information on to their followers and friends – rather than providing the author’s actual opinions on the proposals in the draft Unitary Plan, or what they wanted to see happen in Auckland. This was especially true of Twitter posts, while Facebook and blog posts often did contain detailed commentary about the author’s opinion on the plan.
  • Other than posts talking about the consultation process, encouraging people to take part, talking about meetings they were attending or had attended, or otherwise forwarding news about the Unitary Plan engagement process, the most frequently mentioned topics were residential zones, the RUB, housing affordability, transport and business zones.
  • While these conversations were varied, the main themes of discussion were similar to those posted on the Shape Auckland digital hub, as described above.
  • A number of people responded directly to Auckland’s Council’s Twitter and Facebook requests for feedback on the Unitary Plan, and these have been included in the analysis below.


Overall, from both the Shape Auckland discussion and wider social media commentary, the most frequent topics of conversation in relation to the Unitary Plan have concerned residential development, and the pros and cons of urban intensification. There was strong debate across all of these channels between people in favour of greater urban density, those not in favour, those in favour of containing development within the metropolitan centres (and limiting urban sprawl) and those who wanted to see greater development in outlying greenfield areas. There was a common call for improved public transport services, and development to occur alongside transport nodes. Likewise there was a fairly consistent view that if Auckland was going to see an increase in terraced housing and apartments then urban design standards would be extremely important.

Over and above these ‘content’ related posts, the wider social media discussion has mostly served to promote interest and involvement in the Unitary Plan, with people talking about how they are getting involved, and encouraging others to take part.


The rest of the report


Over and above these ‘content’ related posts, the wider social media discussion has mostly served to promote interest and involvement in the Unitary Plan, with people talking about how they are getting involved, and encouraging others to take part.”

The main drive behind the social media campaign above running commentary on; pro’s, con’s and alternatives was to get people engaged and involved. While I did generate around 10% of all Social Media activity during the feedback period, the engagement process was very high to the point Main Stream Media towards to end were picking up on it and the mentions coming forward.

While Council did rate their comm’s effort a C- (words directly from the Deputy Mayor herself), with all the Unitary Plan activity generation going on and especially through Social Media disseminating the information out there into more traditional media forms; one did not really have an excuse not to know the Unitary Plan was under active feedback at the time. Citizens in the end have to take responsibility to keep themselves informed on current events including a 7000 page clunker that affects every single person living or working in Auckland. Then again I did have a debate on the “X-Factor vs Storm Warning” issue last night and what more people would be “clued into.” And yep they would not know a damaging storm that would take your power out for a week was there until the power did actually go out.

This photo I saw from Facebook rings true

Politics and you


It also means a small minority can enforce the will upon the majority as well. And before someone cry’s out Council is not listening with the Unitary Plan, think again. I know they are with the changes coming through and even Auckland 2040 acknowledge this fact as well. So progress is being made and we are being listened to.


That aside, I will flesh out the key points from the 78 page report (seeming I got mentioned it a few times) in a series of posts while we wait for the main submissions to be published online.


Otherwise you can find my Unitary Plan commentary which is still going by clicking: https://voakl.net/category/planning/urban-planning-and-design/unitary-plan/



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