News | 17 July 2023
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Wellington City Council to establish Citizens’ Assembly

For the first time, Council will establish a Citizens’ Assembly to inform the development of the 2024-34 Long-term Plan – the Council’s budget for the next decade.

Wellington City from State Insurance Tower or Old BNZ Tower

The Citizens’ Assembly will be asked to give a collective view about which Council services should be prioritised over the next 10 years, balancing community benefits with the cost of delivering these services.

Starting today (17 July), invitations will be sent to around 10,000 randomly-selected Wellingtonians this week via post and email. People who express an interest in joining the Citizens’ Assembly will be asked to complete a short survey. From these, 30-40 people will be selected who represent Wellington’s population in terms of age (16+), gender, ethnicity, education levels, and home ownership.


The Citizens’ Assembly will meet over four sessions in September and October. Participants can request information about a range of relevant issues and hear from experts. The sessions will be facilitated to ensure all perspectives are heard and a collective view can be developed. The Assembly will then present their findings to the Mayor and Councillors, who will consider them when making decisions about the 2024-34 Long-term Plan.


Mayor Tory Whanau says diverse community input is critical to shape the Long-term Plan. “Councils across New Zealand are facing major challenges, and Wellington City Council is no exception. We need to make some hard decisions, while protecting and supporting what Wellingtonians love most about our city. Meaningful and extensive engagement with the community will help us get it right.”


Councillor Rebecca Matthews, Chair of the Kōrau Tōtōpū Long-term Plan, Finance, and Performance Committee says, “While citizens’ assemblies are increasingly used overseas, we’ve never done one in Wellington before. We want to be innovative and active in breaking down barriers to participation in Council decision-making, and reach a wide range of people, including those we don’t usually hear from.


“It’s about creating an environment where people are supported to discuss and deliberate with other Wellingtonians with a variety of perspectives and insights. It’s also a chance for them to deepen their understanding of what the Council does, knowing the value of their time and input is recognised.


“If you receive an invitation, and are able to participate, please do – it’s a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the future of our city.”


Long-term Plan engagement phases

The Citizens’ Assembly is one of five phases of engagement on the 2024-34 Long-term Plan, and builds on the first phase, an online survey and series of public workshops where people were asked to rank Council priorities across five categories.


This phase was open during April and May 2023 and more than 3000 people participated.


Many of the top-ranked items reflected existing Council priorities including improving infrastructure and resilience, climate action and affordable housing; while others showed increased focus on some areas, such as improving city safety and upgrading suburban town centres.


Detailed findings from phase one will be available on our website in August.


Other 2024-34 Long-term Plan community engagement phases include:

  • Consultation on the review of rating policies (late 2023), which will look at how the overall rates bill is divided up – that is, the proportion each property owner pays.
  • Participatory budgeting (late 2023/early 2024), where residents are given budgetary information and options, and can express their opinions on how their rates are used to address the needs and priorities of their communities.
  • Formal consultation (early 2024), where people can provide final submissions on the draft Long-term Plan for 2024-34.

The 2024-24 Long-term Plan will be adopted by Councillors in June 2024.


What is a citizens’ assembly and why is Wellington City Council holding one?

  • Citizens’ assemblies are a form of deliberative democracy. They focus on collaborative decision-making by bringing a diverse and representative group together, to deliberate and make an informed decision on a complex topic where there is strong public interest. The focus is not on finding a perfect solution, but a decision that everyone in the group can compromise on, in which the trade-offs are understood and weighed up. More information is on the University of Auckland’s Koi Tui: The Centre for Informed Futures Complex Conversations website.
  • In recent years, citizens’ assemblies have gained traction overseas. A prominent example is the 2016 Irish Citizens’ Assembly whose recommendations led to the 2018 referendum on abortion. They are increasingly used by state and local government authorities in Australia. Melbourne, for example, has a goal to be “A deliberative city: A world leader in using participatory democratic approaches to decision-making”.
  • In Aotearoa, a key recommendation of the recent Review into the Future for Local Government was “Local government and councils develop and invest in democratic innovations, including participatory and deliberative democracy processes”.
  • In Auckland in 2022, Watercare and the University of Auckland held a citizens’ assembly about the long-term future of Auckland’s water supply. Information about that project is on Watercare’s website. The Review into the Future for Local Government stated that “Overall, the project indicated that deliberative democracy has great potential for advancing public participation and good decision-making in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
  • This is Wellington City Council’s first citizens’ assembly. The project will be evaluated as part of broader efforts to improve Council engagement processes, participation rates and accessibility.

How will the selection process work?

  • In the week beginning 17 July, letters inviting people to express an interest in being part of the Citizens’ Assembly will be sent to about 10,000 randomly selected postal and email addresses.
  • The letter will contain a link and QR code to an online survey for those interested in participating to complete.
  • There will also be a number for people to call and complete the survey over the phone if they prefer.
  • Participation is open to residents as well as people who hold New Zealand citizenship, as long as they live in Wellington. People need to be 16 or over to participate.
  • The survey will include questions about age, gender, ethnicity, education levels, home ownership and location within Wellington. This information will be used by an independent research agency to select 30-40 people who reflect Wellington’s diversity.
  • The Assembly will meet over four Saturdays (16 September, 23 September, 30 September and 7 October) (and two one-hour online sessions) in an accessible location in central Wellington.
  • The selected participants will be offered $800 as a token of appreciation for volunteering their time. Childcare and transport support may be offered, and food and refreshments will be provided at the four sessions.
  • The call for expressions of interest, survey and selection process is being managed by independent agency Global Research.
  • People with questions about this process can contact