Innovative community consultation

The City of Burnside is one of five South Australian Councils developing an innovative tool that allows residents to participate in the Council decision making process from their own home. Under a project funded by the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA), and in partnership with the University of South Australia’s Institute for Marketing Science, ­the Cities of Burnside, Tea Tree Gully, Unley and Whyalla, and Coorong District Council are piloting online community panels.

With community consultation an important part of the way Local Government operates, the panels aim to overcome the challenges of traditional consultation methods, which sometimes don’t allow people to participate because of the times or locations they are held.

Tea Tree Gully and Unley Councils are the most developed in the process, having already established their panels and conducted one survey each. Burnside is not far behind. Currently it is in the process of taking registrations and is expected to conduct its first survey in early June.

City of Burnside Mayor, Wendy Greiner, said the online panels ask residents to respond via email to a small number of surveys each year – most of which take only a few minutes to complete.

“The surveys will focus on a range of issues that impact our community, including environmental matters, the provision of Council services, Council assets and other topical and important issues,” she said.

Mayor Greiner said feedback and input from the surveys will ensure the community’s voice is heard and will assist Council in its understanding of the community’s views on a range of significant issues.

“Under the pilot, participating Councils are testing several different survey methods, while continuing mail and phone surveys to ascertain the accuracy of the results,” she said. “We anticipate a more reflective view of the community through the panel, as it comprises people interested in providing feedback on a range of issues.”

Council is encouraging residents of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life to join the panel, and is seeking to build a statistically valid group of people that is geographically and demographically representative of the population of the City. 

Once the pilot is completed, the knowledge and guidelines developed will assist other South Australian Councils to implement their own online panels.

“We hope to eventually roll the panels out across the State, which has the potential for technology sharing, benchmarking efficiencies and cost savings,” Mayor Greiner said.

For further information contact Burnside’s General Manager Corporate and Community Services, Jane Trotter, on (08) 8366 4200.