Diversity and public engagement in New Zealand planning
Aotearoa New Zealand’s population has grown rapidly from 3.85 million in 2000, to 5 million in 2020. Ethnic diversity has consequently increased. Territorial Authorities (TAs) undertaking statutory consultation and wider public engagement processes need to respond to increased diversity and foster inclusivity. Inclusivity is necessary to facilitate a greater understanding of TA statutory functions, as well as to encourage awareness and participation in annual planning processes, and resource management plans and consents. We examined perceptions, and experiences, of planning within the ethnic Chinese immigrant population of Christchurch. The Chinese ethnic group is a significant part of the city’s population and is in itself derived from diverse cultural and language backgrounds. We surveyed 111 members of this community, via social media and in person, to identify environmental and planning issues of concern to them. We sought to ascertain their previous engagement with planning processes and to gauge their willingness for future involvement. We also undertook a small number of semi-structured interviews with Chinese immigrants to explore their experiences with planning in more detail. Results showed only 6% of respondents had been engaged in any planning processes, despite only 20% being unwilling to participate. We analysed these responses by gender, age, visa category, and length of time resident in Christchurch. Notwithstanding the low level of reported engagement, earthquake recovery (70% of respondents) along with water quality, transport, and air quality were the most important issues of concern. However, there was a general lack of awareness of the ability to make public submissions on these and other issues, and of the statutory responsibilities of TAs. We discuss possible explanations and provide several suggestions for TAs to increase awareness and to improve engagement. This includes further research to assist in identifying the nature of barriers as well as the effectiveness of trialling different solutions.
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