Dr. Deborah Lind, Glenda Brighouse, Sarah Price, Jo Duncan (AECOM, Auckland)
Throughout the world, we have seen COVID-19 accelerate digital transformation. It has driven us to re-think the way we do many things – and the infrastructure, water, transport, and buildings industry has also been disrupted. Where a previous in-person community forum event or printed documents in a local library would have been sufficient to communicate an environmental assessment of a project, this is simply not the future. Where a team of project designers and engineers previously met in a room to collaborate on paper or 2D digital images, now this happens online in a connected, 3D, 4D, and now 5D environment. Globally, we have seen a significant shift towards new digital tools to help us adapt to this ‘new normal’ of our post-COVID world and a new digital future.
New Zealand is entering a period of significant change with the reform of the water sector, including the creation of the independent water services regulator, Taumata Arowai, and the amalgamation of 67 council water units into four water entities. This presents a great opportunity to do things differently and to consider what is possible with online stakeholder engagement in the New Zealand water sector.
In this paper, the authors provide examples from Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom to show where virtual engagement tools and online platforms are achieving effective and meaningful community engagement and what we can learn and apply to the water sector in New Zealand.