Engaging the Wyong community

In the last 12 months, Wyong Shire Councilís efforts to meaningfully engage with its communities have taken a huge leap forward using innovative online methods.

Wyong Shire has 150,000 residents over a wide geographic area and is situated an hourís drive north of Sydney on the beautiful Central Coast of NSW.

With so many local people commuting out of the Shire for work, residents have found it hard to get involved in Council matters. Now people can access the Councilís new online engagement hub 24/7, at a time and place most convenient for them.

Wyong Shire Council launched the Consultation Hub in May 2012, the first time this online product has been used in Australia, to facilitate community engagement.

The Hub consists of two forums: ĎEngage Meí, where community members can submit ideas and commentary; and ĎConsultationí, for specific surveys contributing to Councilís project planning and community engagement. The latter are then promoted through Councilís other communication mediums, including traditional media, community posters and social media.

The Hub is already proving to be a great success, with many people thanking Council for providing a convenient way to share their thoughts and opinions. Other benefits are the significant environmental and economic savings due to reductions in paper and staff resources.

The technology, along with the Resident e-Panel, is also providing Council with useful insight into which sectors of the community are being successfully engaged and which would benefit from alternative strategies to encourage interaction.

Council created and implemented the Resident e-Panel in 2011/2012, to provide an improved option for engaging the community. The e-Panel is a database of Wyong Shire residents who want to be actively involved and have a say about issues that affect their local area.

During the year, the guidelines behind this initiative were created and a communications campaign was launched, targeting interested community members. In the first seven months, 300 members joined the panel, with more recruits registering daily.

Members receive targeted communications via email and are invited to participate in all consultation activities. This user-friendly system has led to increases in community engagement and significant sustainability benefits. Council can now engage with residents and disseminate and collect information at the click of a button.