The right to be heard

Residents near the dog park in Edgemead say the City didn’t notify them about plans to establish it.

The neighbourhood scuffle over the new Edgemead dog park sounds as if it were made for the mockumentary sitcom Parks and Recreation.

In the grander scheme of things – and here Covid19 and our economy’s impersonation of a jumping castle, rapidly deflating while still being bounced on by our politicians, spring easily to mind – dog poo in the park seems like a non-event.

But there are some lessons to be learned from this. Among them is the City’s failure, once again, to communicate effectively with ordinary citizens who haplessly get swept up in development plans of one form or another. It’s not good enough for Ms Carstens to say communication was left to the “various associations in the suburb”. Who are these associations and what steps did the City take to ensure they got the message out? After all, the City was responsible for establishing the park, not the associations.

The City has been accused in the past of relying on the unreliable postal service and cherry-picking “interested and affected parties” as a way to dampen public opposition to plans it favours.

Of course, it’s impossible to please all the people all the time. Even the best-sounding ideas are likely to draw opposition from someone. However, it’s important that the voices of those who will have to live with the new development on their doorstep are heard and that genuine steps are taken to address their concerns.

And that should be true for all developments in the city, not just the Edgemead dog park. The way the City communicates about development is a mess that has sat steaming in the park of public opinion for far too long. It’s time it cleaned it up.