Shaping our Future - Queenstown Lakes District

Shaping our Future was launched in 2011 by the Queenstown Lakes District Council to provide ratepayers with an influential voice on decision-making in the district. It aims to bring community, commerce and council together around a shared vision. It’s a council supported process that is owned and driven by the community.  Decisions are made by a volunteer Steering Group that functions as an incorporated society.  

At the outset of the process detailed surveys and workshops enabled the community to identify a set of priorities for Shaping our Future to address through further public forums covering specific local themes. Those forums now enable the community to identify specific issues and responses that are developed by a self-selected Task Force group. The Task Forces work with the Steering Group to develop recommendations that are presented back to the council for implementation.

Shaping our Future is based on a process that was originally developed in Whistler, Canada.  Research from that initiative showed that 80% of the community recommendations were adopted by the local council; an experience that has been echoed in Queenstown.

Business Lab has facilitated four forum workshops that have attracted up to 120 people per session, which demonstrates the level of engagement that the Shaping our Future process has inspired. Giving 120 people the clear feeling that they’ve been properly heard and participated is a real challenge for a facilitator, and to make sure they leave with a smile on their face is harder still. “These workshops have been amazing”, says Simon Harvey. “We have to make sure people feel totally engaged and positive about investing three hours of their time.  That means not just making it productive, but having fun as well.”

The forums Business Lab has run have covered Tourism and Economic Development, Transport and community planning for sensitive and passionate communities in Glenorchy and Arrowtown. “In Arrowtown, we had over 5% of the community come along to the workshops which is huge,” says Simon. “We got some great input, lots of really interesting ideas, and everybody left with a smile.”

The big challenge for Business Lab is to get as much rich information from the community on the forum topic in 2.5 to 3 hours. The fast-paced process includes 3 visioning exercises, a detailed identification of key issues which are then prioritised with a weighted voting exercise, and a final session on drivers, ideal outcomes and next steps for each of the priority issues. “People feel pretty exhausted when they come out of a Shaping our Future workshop. We work them hard for the full three hours, and it’s amazing how many good ideas can be generated in such a short time.”

There’s been really good feedback from the process and some good progress including a real win on the new wastewater system in Glenorchy as a result of the Steering Group’s recommendations to council from the Task Force’s work.

For further information about Shaping our Future contact Simon Harvey at Business Lab or Anita Golden, the Shaping our Future executive officer.  And you can watch the video below to gain a full understanding about how the workshop forum process works, and what happens to turn community input into action.