Every year, Nelson City Council works on around 150 infrastructure projects to make the area more beautiful and liveable for its over 50,000 residents. From essential infrastructure to park upgrades to supporting local events, the Council is constantly improving the city and surrounds.  

As part of their processes, it’s vital for Nelson City Council to ensure the eight local iwi have the opportunity to provide input and feedback on projects of cultural significance. It’s not only a legislative requirement, but also part of the Council’s goal to strengthen its relationship with iwi and ‘implement a genuine partnership’.  

But until recently the method for seeking engagement was less than ideal, explains Pania Lee, Kaihautū, Manager Māori Partnerships. 

“Existing iwi engagement processes were causing frustration with both parties, we had staff emailing iwi and congesting their email inboxes. Every project is important to a staff member but for iwi there are some high-interest projects — where all eight local iwi might want to engage with us — and there are low-interest projects, like park equipment, that would not be a good use of iwi time to be involved with,” says Pania.  

“Iwi often didn’t have the capacity to respond and were overwhelmed with material, some of which held little relevance or interest to them. There was no transparency or way of knowing whether other iwi or representatives had responded already, resulting in duplication of effort and time spent chasing engagement requests. The platform now allows more transparency for iwi and oversight of the entire project from the initial concept stage right through to design and delivery.”

Collaborative project to create Te Parikaranga

It took two years to develop the new iwi engagement platform, called Te Parikaranga. The Council worked closely with iwi to establish what the tool needed to deliver, then turned to Datacom to come up with a solution that would be both effective and cost-efficient. Datacom was able to work with the Council to successfully build Te Parikaranga using the SharePoint platform, which the Council was already able to access. This kept costs low, meant the platform already felt familiar, and it allows Te Parikaranga to be easily improved and developed in the future.  

“We used existing tools in the Microsoft 365 suite in a new way,” says Jane McLeod, IT Director.

“The tool was co-designed and developed with iwi so this wasn’t just a Council project, it was a true partnership. It was a full co-development and co-design. We identified the challenges and created a traffic light system, which was the key mechanism to improve communications.”  

The traffic light system allows each of the eight iwi to tag each project: red for ‘don’t move without us’; orange for ‘we need more information’; green for ‘you can continue with this project without our input’; blue for ‘we want to engage on this project but we don’t have capacity for it right now’. Because iwi can see how other iwi have engaged, it saves time by preventing double-ups.   

Line of people waiting to walk inside a house

Facilitating more meaningful engagement with iwi

Although the platform has only been running for a short time, results have already been impressive, with significant time saved across projects and meetings.  

“I have regular quarterly meetings with our pou taiao (iwi environmental practitioners’ group), Te Ohu Taiao, who designed this tool,” says Pania.

“Normally it’s a three-hour meeting. But this time they asked for four projects to be moved onto the platform for feedback, which cut the meeting to two hours.” 

Perhaps more importantly, the team estimates that iwi are now able to engage with projects up to three years earlier.  

“In previous years, iwi were being given 20 or 30 days to engage with a project at the resource consenting phase for a project that had been going on for three to five years. That was not fair on iwi or demonstrating good partnership, because it’s not meaningful if engagement with iwi is after decisions have been made,” says Pania.  

“Now, iwi can see a project from the beginning and engage at a design or strategic. We have a clear and transparent process, that means we engage in a meaningful way. Better engagement with iwi produces effective and enduring outcomes. Generating new levels of partnership and strengthening the relationship in a way it wasn’t occurring before. By utilising an efficient and effective platform to save time, and avoid mistakes, both parties have a more satisfying experience with the engagement which leads to enhanced outcomes.”  

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