Shifting to a sustainable city? : citizen participation in Wellington's Our city-our future strategy : thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Policy at Massey University
This study explores the potential contribution of citizen participation in the shift to sustainable cities. Citizen participation has attracted considerable attention, and the theoretical issues are explored. A number of international agreements promote the need for citizens to be involved in achieving 'sustainable development', including Agenda 21. This is something that is accepted by central and local government in New Zealand, with statutory provisions requiring participation included in both the Resource Mangemetnt Act and the Local Government Act. There is a question as to how effective citizen participation is. In an attempt to assess the contribution to sustainability of Wellington, I evaluate the effectiveness of a city-wide strategic development process in Wellington, called Our City ~ Our Future. This process was initiated by Wellington City Council as a means of addressing Agenda 21, and Strategy development attracted a considerable degree of interest, with up to 2,000 citizens involved over the 18 month period of Strategy development. The final document is considered a 'reasonable' first step and efforts are now being directed at implementation. There is a widely held view that implementation is not progressing as fast or as thoroughly as it could. Key themes that emerge as possible explanations for this include: the representativeness of the process, an uneasy balance between council and citizen control, the lack of internal council support, under-resourcing, group dynamics, council governance, and a lack of understanding of sustainability. The wider economic and political climate also contributes to limited progress. To address the barriers to implementation a number of recommendations are made. Priorities for action include: a change in Council attitude — a genuine commitment to citizen participation needs to be made; adequate resourcing of the Advisory Group which is overseeing Strategy implementation; capacity building and resourcing for community groups involved in citizen participation processes; a need for raising awareness of sustainability; and finding ways to ensure involvement by key stakeholders.