Yes, your submissions count

02:33, May 22 2014

You had more than 200 submissions to Council's Draft Annual Plan. Do you read them and do they really make any difference to how you make decisions?

Rachel Reese responds:

On March 28, Council released the draft annual plan with a forecast average rates rise of 3.7 per cent.

The plan sets out how rates will be spent for the next financial year starting on July 1, 2014.

We ask you to tell us what you think of the draft plan.

We call for written submissions and more than 220 of you, individuals and groups, took the opportunity to write to us.

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Of those submitters, 70 asked to speak at the hearing we held last week.

Plenty of the submissions supported much of what was in the plan. Some told us to scrap projects.

Lots asked for additional funding for new projects. Others reminded us of jobs sitting on waiting lists for far too long.

A few told us what plonkers we are, although less than in previous years.

So do I read the submissions? Yes I do. Several of them I read twice; once to prepare for the hearing and the second time to prepare for decision-making.

The rules on presenting a submission are broad.

The law says we are to give people a reasonable opportunity to present their views in a manner and format that is appropriate to the preferences and needs of those persons. I do know a council where a submitter chose to present her submission by way of interpretative dance.

We didn't have any dancers.

We are required to receive a submission with an open mind and to give due consideration to a person's views in making a decision.

I regularly remind councillors and myself of that obligation.

My tip to submitters is, even if you don't like what's proposed, try to keep to relevant information and try persuasion ahead of ridicule in what you write and say.

Also, at some point, tell us what decision you would like us to make. The hearings give councillors a chance to ask questions of clarification on points or requests in the submissions. As much as I try to discourage councillor comments that are pretend questions - "Don't you agree that….." - a few slip by. And every now and then I swallow the hook, even the line and sinker, of the submitter who has come in to score points out of the exercise.

My apologies for the slippage and taking the bait.

But those situations are very much in the minority and the wealth of useful information that comes from the submission process helps us make better decisions.

The submissions do make a valuable difference.

Without going to their merits I did have a few submissions I particularly enjoyed this year.

The submission that gave a font guide was useful. "If I capitalise a word it is meant to be shouted with emphasis. If it is underlined and bold, I'm probably mad." I took that to mean mad as in very cross rather than barmy.

I enjoyed the verbal submission on the Tahuna loos.

Sometimes it's the little things that can really make a difference.

The submissions asking us to video council meetings and load the viewing to our website could be the key to local democracy or as interesting as paint drying, depending on your point of view.

And well done to the farmers of Nelson North who came in to remind us that flood damage affects everyone in our community.

Their verbal submission and PowerPoint took my informal award for the best use of presentation time, closely followed by The Youth and Community Trust.

Next week the council will meet to deliberate on submissions. We can accept submissions and change the plan, or reject submissions and leave the plan as it is.

At the end of the deliberations meetings we'll have a final work programme for the year and a budget to go with it.

In preparation for that meeting I am keeping an open mind.

At the meeting I'll have eyes wide open keeping track of the impact of decisions on the final rates rise.

The Nelson Mail