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Update: Wellington City Council Long-term Plan Submissions

Last weekend there were a few social media posts suggesting that questions left unanswered by respondents in Wellington City Council’s Long-term Plan online consultation form ‘defaulted’ to the Council’s preferred option. This was also the subject of some media coverage on Monday 13 May.

On Sunday 12 May, Council officers carried out a review of the available social media posts at the time and undertook multiple checks of the survey form, the respondent email record of results and the actual recording of data from the Let’s Talk engagement platform. At that time those checks confirmed that questions un-answered do not default to the preferred Council option and are not recorded as such in the Let’s Talk platform or the output results of the consultation. This finding was communicated by email to Councillors late morning on Sunday 12 May.

Since then further checking of results and assurance testing of both the online and hardcopy survey form, email response to respondents and recoding of data on the Let’s Talk platform has occurred. This comprised of four levels of testing with the following results:

  • An external check of the operation of the online consultation survey tool with platform provider - Granicus International. Granicus has confirmed there is no capability to set such a defaulting function in the Let’s Talk survey tool. Granicus also indicated it has not heard of any instances, from across its client network, of respondents interpreting the contents of the email to respondents as defaulting to a survey preferred option. Granicus has 5500 client organisations globally, 300 clients across NZ and Australia and has reached 300m+ people through its various government and civic digital products.
  • A further review of available social media posts to identify any verifiable instances of suggested defaulting of unanswered questions. Officers found no verifiable evidence from available social media posts of the suggested defaulting.
  • External, independent testing of the operation of the survey and recording of results in the respondent email. This testing found “no evidence of any of our submission being altered in any way, with blank submissions correctly disregarded” and “the statements were correctly absent in the email”.
  • A WCC Risk and Assurance Internal audit also completed two phases of testing:
  • the same testing as the external independent testing outlined above found “the responses were correctly recorded in the survey tool as well as the email confirmation”.
  • a verification of the accuracy of recording of survey results in the Let’s Talk platform and the consultation reporting of results. This testing was for a sample of both online and written LTP submissions received during the consultation period. The result of this testing was “All results and comments were accurately keyed, including the blank responses”.
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In summary, the results of this testing, and that the Let’s Talk survey tool has no capability to set such a defaulting function, means there is:

  • No evidence to support any claim of the ‘defaulting’ of unanswered question responses to the Council’s preferred option
  • The email record of submitter responses and the entries in the Let’s Talk database contain the submitter responses as answered in the online or written survey form; and
  • The results of the above testing confirm officers’ conclusion communicated by email to Councillors on 12 May.

Consequently, submitters and Councillors can have full confidence in the accuracy, recording and reporting of responses to LTP survey questions.

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