A lot of work to be done starting with the Councillors
Yesterday Auckland Council came out with the news that the citizens are not exactly happy with it. In the Citizens Not Happy With Council Performance #AKLPols UPDATED it was summarised:
- The council needs to improve on demonstrating accountability and effectiveness in order to improve its reputation among Aucklanders
- 15 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the council’s performance, while 36 per cent were dissatisfied
- 17 percent of respondents say they trust the council to make the right decision, while 47 per cent do not
- Residents who live closer to the city centre and those in South Auckland tend to rate the council more highly than those who live further out
- Areas that residents cite as examples of the council’s positive impact include improving transport and the environment, and continuing council’s positive commitment to Auckland’s cultural diversity
- The council’s baseline reputational score sits at 45 out of a total of 100 points.
Indeed the South (apart from Papakura) and the Isthmus (apart from Orakei) were more satisfied with Council than the north. Ironically Howick Ward was also satisfied with Council as well despite what their two Councillors might think otherwise. In asking why the South (including Howick) and the Isthmus (but not Orakei) might favour the Council more? Well it came down to demographics.
First the satisfaction rating by Local Board area:
So it seems despite some loud NIMBYs in the North Shore and Howick the areas were happy with Council. I am going to wager that Papakura, Franklin and West Auckland’s dissatisfaction is going to be from Auckland Transport literally fart-arsing around with projects that would make travel easier in the area regardless of it being by car or public transport. Actually I wonder if Auckland Transport had this entire survey done on itself how much that above map would be a sea of red with AT’s dissatisfaction?
Why is the Isthmus and the South including Howick more in favour of Council? The answer was surprising in the fact it was demographics of the area:
White people above the age of 50 with a good income stream (see slides below) who vote are most likely to complain while those below the age of 40 regardless of ethnicity who live in the Isthmus and South (our two most diverse areas in Auckland as well) and do not vote are more likely to trust Council. A problem though is the disproportionate power situation with those who are more likely to complain are also likely to vote and engage with Council. Those who are more supportive of Council do not engage with Council or vote.
That disengagement needs to be sorted if we are to sort out the power imbalance in our Council democratic structure. If both sides voted in equal proportions the balance would be greater and you just might find more things get done. I also noticed the bottom point about media from both sides of the coin. The younger generations are more likely to be on Social Media and highly mobile while the older generations would be with Granny Herald, One News and ZB radio station (all rather hotbeds of discontent). The way information and interaction is delivered will have an impact on perceptions of Council itself. For irony three authoritative blogs on Auckland issues come from either the Isthmus or the South as well. While I am not drawing any correlation into that yet further studies on the impact of social media and blogs should be done given the younger generation’s use of that media platform but still are disengaged with Council.
Council in its report then broke the demographics down further before looking at how well it was tracking with the goal of The World’s Most Liveable City.
The demographic breakdown:
Given Active Aspirers and Fun Lovers are the first line of defence (and advocating) for Council nurturing them into the 50+ range is of importance as their “influence” will lift the others perceptions of Council up as well.
I would if I was Council do a deep dive study into why younger residents in the South and Isthmus see Council’s reputation better but at the same time are not actively engaged as their older counterparts in the east and north. Given the fact we are building a city for the future of these younger residents the reasons and aspirations of these citizens I consider of utmost importance.
So how is Council’s commitment to the World’s Most Liveable City?
Well it for the most part is actually positive:
However, while the above scores are good the ones below are not:
The demographic breakdown in the performance towards the World’s Most Liveable City goal:
The demographic breakdown is the same to the other further back up the post with those older and on higher incomes (and vote) less satisfied than those who are on average or lower incomes and often do not vote. And yes I certainly know the irony of money does not buy happiness but is used to influence power in democracy. Again a deep dive study needs to be done on the Isthmus and in the South on why they gave Council an excellent rating but are disengaged. At the same time that ‘average’ section needs a look at as well given the high ethnicity diversity as well as low voter turn out.
As for what is important to citizens? Well it is the one Auckland Transport bollocks up the most given bus patronage targets are to be missed (Auckland Transport to Miss Bus Patronage Targets):
Given transport is our primary bug bear and a main responsibility for Auckland’s productivity being negative (see below) I can see why it is the most important issue out there. Once transport especially public transport is dealt with the rest as the above slides show will lift up naturally.
As for how citizens rate experiences:
Planning (including resource consents), transport and parking were the main bug bears for Citizens (Auckland Transport most of the flak). But what surprised me was the Waterfront also in negative territory as well. This is something Panuku Development Auckland might want to look at to see where the negative perceptions are coming from and whether the Port might have something to do with it (I doubt it).
What Council needs to do?
So tailored stories to the individual demographics of Auckland are needed in a drive to start getting Council reputation up (which is most often hammered by lack of information and knowledge on what is actually there). I remember sitting in a focus group about engagement in either 2013 or 2014 and how the group said that individual tailored stories across many platforms was needed to help Council perceptions by the citizenry. So why three years later the exact same issues are coming up again in a mass survey?
Probably because the mechanics of Auckland Council especially the bureaucracy is too slow (another reason reputation gets harmed). Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are known to be extremely slow in both communicating and getting things done even if enough citizens jump up and down (think the need for bollards on the Nelson Street cycle-way and AT dragging the chain on that one).
Solutions as I see it?
- Tailor those stories and partner up with individual groups and people (like bloggers) to further expand the reach those stories. Locals know local!
- The bureaucracy in Council and Auckland Transport need to speed up. Communications, decisions and action take far too long from both organisations thus affect reputation perceptions by the citizens. I am willing to wager decision times taken can be reduced by half improving the quality of the said decision. And yes the Unitary Plan is an example of taking half the time to come to a decision with the UP taking three years to complete rather than the six to nine otherwise we were looking at under conventional methods.
- Councillors (looking at the Finance and Performance Committee yesterday) need to certainly behave better and cut down in the grandstanding. They are the public front to Council and their behaviour will influence our perceptions.
So then will anything change in 2019 when the next big survey is done?
Citizen Insights Monitor Baseline Summary June 2016
Citizen Insights Monitor Baseline Report March 2016
Auckland Council Performance Plan 2017-2019