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Web debate on Wellington’s future

Feb 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Latest News, News

wccfacemainWellingtonians don’t have to attend dreary consultation meetings in suburban halls – they’re going online to tell the city council what they want to see.

A new website has been launched by Wellington City Council to encourage discussion on possible changes and plans for the city.

Council representatives have also been monitoring discussions on social media site Facebook and responding to comments in an attempt to keep up with the times.

“Our job in this office is to deal with the media and the media is increasingly involving the blogosphere,” says WCC spokesman Richard MacLean.

“Blogosphere” is a loose term used to describe social and discussion media on the internet such as WordPress, Facebook, Blogger, Myspace and Twitter.

Prime Minister John Key is among members of a Facebook group called “What do you want for Wellington”, also set up by WCC, seeking input from the public into Wellington’s 10-year plan.

Among the latest suggestions are more baby-friendly (and dog-friendly) cafes, more recreational facilities, lower-maintenance plantings, helicopters moved from the waterfront to the airport, and cancelling the indoor sport stadium.

The Golden Mile Restoration project has prompted a large amount of discussion in a group opposed to the changes, SAVE MANNERS MALL.

“After WCC just recently spent about $1 million doing it up they want to dig it up and put a road through?!” writes one member.

Another points out that although there are more than 1500 members in the group, only a fraction of those have signed the WCC e-petition asking the council to keep the mall for pedestrians.

A smaller, pro-bus route group, “‘F**k Manners Mall”, has also been formed.

Mr MacLean says a small number of people had to be reminded that Facebook is a public place, and people posting malicious or unsubstantiated comments could risk a tort of defamation.

“There was a small group of people who were just peddling complete lies about the council, so that was one of the reasons why I personally decided to start posting on it,” says Mr MacLean.

“If you’re moving into areas of defamation, you could find yourself in trouble.”

Mr MacLean says a number of New Zealand councils have contacted WCC to inquire about using social media.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that the days of communicating with the general public via the traditional media and meetings in cold, drafty halls in the suburbs are gone.”

When it comes to social networking sites, Facebook is possibly the best platform for public discussion, with more than 150 million active daily users and more than 20 million active user groups.

Recent statistics put Facebook second in the race for social media superiority, still trailing MySpace, but closing the gap fast.

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is a multi-media journalist and Whitireia graduate specialising in video, audio, web 2.0, technology, photography, editing and Photoshop. After graduating from Whitireia, and a brief stint in teaching for the school, he moved on to working for Stuff.co.nz.
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