Good consultation means that citizens have the opportunity to express their opinions and provide information to inform decision-makers before the decision is made.
Consultation doesn’t mean that local government is bound to follow the majority position on an issue.
Local government isn’t government by referendum. Good consultation means the council knows and understands the range of community opinions about a particular issue and can use this information to inform its decision.
There are also occasions when local government needs to demonstrate community leadership based on:
- information available to the council
- council’s perception of its role as a government elected to govern
- council’s understanding of its community, which is based on considered consultation and engagement processes.
There are costs in both time and resources to consultation. These costs should be identified and taken into account in decision-making, policy development and project planning processes.
Less obvious, but equally important, are the costs that can arise out of not consulting. There can be a high cost in time and resources to undo a decision that could have been avoided with effective and timely consultation.
Local government should consult and engage its community and, in doing so, reflect the aspirations of that community.