The Auckland Unitary Plan is an important step for the future of the country's biggest city. So, rather than leaving it to the usual folk who interact with/complain about the bureaucrats, it's hoping to get a wide range of society to consider the issues and help guide the decision-making. And to help do that, and at the same time simplify some rather complex issues, Auckland Council has released an online housing simulator.
Created by Ogilvy, the simulator uses a simplified map and a few sliders to get users thinking about how the city will create the 400,000 additional homes that will be needed in the next 30 years if, as expected, one million more people arrive (judging by the tool residents can look forward to a circular Auckland with all the hills removed).
"There are a lot of complex issues in the Unitary Plan, as there are in all planning documents," says Oliver Roberts, the Unitary Plan's comms manager. "So part of the campaign is to try and simplify the issues as much as possible and by doing so broaden the range of people who get their heads around it and give feedback."
He says councils around the world need to do more to use the digital tools at their disposal to communicate with residents and this tool, which offers the ability to share to social networks, is a good step in that direction for Auckland.
"Whatever you call it, gamification or visualisation, it's a way of using the tools that digital media can give us to appeal to the community. It's about getting people to have a play and getting them to think about the fact that there's no up or out. It's what is the best combination and then how do we make that growth work for us."
The simulator had over 1,000 views in its first couple of days. And it's now up to 5,450 unique views.
Overall, while there's been some kickback from councillors over the plan, with some breaking ranks and writing a letter to the PM saying it has been rushed and ill-considered, Roberts says the reporting has probably shown it to be more combative than it actually is. There have been "60 odd events" and he says there were three or four where things got heated. But it's getting a lot of "strong feedback" and he says it's been "very collaborative and positive".
"One of the things that's emerging from the feedback is a generational gap," he says. "The younger people are very positive about having greater choice of homes and vibrant centres, great range of facilities and public transport. Right now we do not have the choice of homes available for the community, at both ends of the age spectrum."
Roberts says it has also run a youth video competition for entrants under 25 and, without any media spend and a bit of prize money, it received 35 entries, a number he was very happy with (check out the finalists here) and showed how engaged the youth are with the future of the city.
Ogilvy also designed the conversation hub shapeauckland.co.nz and the campaign has so far consisted of press, online, online video, PR and social media.
- Check out the overview of the Unitary Plan here.