The Otago Regional Council will receive a report on Thursday into its survey of 1,700 people across Otago, conducted during September 2021.
The community survey is the first since 2016 to gather insights about community awareness, perceptions, and environmental values in Otago.
The Council-conducted survey will be repeated annually at the same time for the next three years, to support ongoing improvement and decision-making.
General Manager Regulatory and Communications Richard Saunders said the survey would provide an important benchmark for improvements in future.
“Although we regularly consult with the community through processes like our annual plan, this is the first time in seven years that ORC has collected data on public perceptions and satisfaction in a survey of this kind.
“The data includes some positive results for us as an organisation, as well as highlighting the areas where we need to focus our improvement and engagement in the future.”
Unprompted, 75% of respondents identified Otago Regional Council as the organisation responsible for managing Otago’s natural resources, which was a positive result, Mr Saunders said.
“We know from the conversations we have around every annual and long-term plan that one of the biggest challenges facing ORC is clear public awareness of who we are and what we do. It’s pleasing to see good awareness of ORC’s environmental role, and particularly our work in relation to water – although other parts of our core function were not as well understood.
“Interestingly, respondents from the Clutha and Central Otago districts showed a higher level of familiarity with ORC’s range of activities, which could suggest that our growing work programme in these parts of the region is being recognised by the community. We hope to see more of that growth reflected in other districts as time goes on.”
Another highlight from the report was in public transport, which received the highest satisfaction ratings of any ORC service. 61% of respondents who had used the bus service in Queenstown or Dunedin rated it as an 8 or higher out of 10, with only 11% rating it 4 or lower.
ORC Chair Andrew Noone said it was important for ORC to acknowledge the community concerns that emerged from the data.
“The survey report includes some challenging results for ORC, but these are also the most useful for highlighting where more work is needed to improve public perceptions and satisfaction.
“ORC is experiencing significant growth both as an organisation and in our responsibilities – as reflected in our Long-term Plan – and it will take more time and raising of awareness for this to be recognised in the community.
On the issue of councillor infighting, noted in the survey as one of several reasons for some public dissatisfaction, Cr Noone said different philosophies and personalities brought to the table, along with varying opinions on topics, are a good thing.
“The outcomes of these discussions and debate generally add value to the outcome,” he said.
“The survey will be invaluable for us as a benchmark in future, as we continue to ramp up our work programmes and be more visible working for the environment throughout Otago.”
Overall satisfaction with ORC was mixed in the survey results, with 16% “satisfied” (scoring 8-10 on a 10-point scale), 45% “average” (5-7 out of 10), and 30% “dissatisfied” (1-4 out of 10).
“There are lots of really valuable insights for ORC as an organisation from this survey, beyond community perceptions of us as an organisation” Mr Saunders said.
“These include demographic breakdowns, identifying the parts of the region that have lower awareness and opinions of ORC, as well as useful data about where people get their news in Otago, their information about ORC, and their ecological stances.”
Background to the survey
The community survey was first mooted by Councillors in early 2020. After workshops with Councillors to refine the purpose and scope of the survey, and following a tender process, Versus Research were contracted at the start of 2021 to further develop and complete the survey.
The Council Governance, Communications and Engagement Committee approved the detailed survey proposal on 13 May.
Between 6 and 30 September 2021, 1,057 respondents completed online surveys. A further 643 respondents completed telephone surveys between 27 September and 29 October 2021. Survey respondents were from all five Otago districts: Waitaki, Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes, Dunedin, and Clutha.
The survey results can be viewed in this week’s Council agenda.