Long Term Plan Optimism Bias, more Propaganda, and another Consultation Shambles


The Council isn’t known for its accuracy with figures. They are a bit of a movable feast, as is time, and other elements. So when the Mayor sent out a press release yesterday on the statistics around the Long Term Plan (LTP) and how awesome it has been, with actual statistics, I thought “doesn’t look right to me.” So, I ran some stats for myself and sure enough, they are different.

Mayor Wade-Brown says 71 percent of people who used the Council’s new purpose-built consultation website support the overall 10-Year Plan and, importantly, a statistically-valid survey shows a similar level of support. – Source

Before we get into it, this is what I have crunched:

Celia says 71 percent support the LTP

The website says 68 percent support the LTP

Strathmore Park says 66 percent support the LTP

So there is an optimism bias of at least 5 percent in the Mayor’s press release. So here’s what I did.

I used the consultation website and scraped all the statistical data for every idea that was proposed then matched that against the Mayor’s news release. It’s interesting to say the least.

The top five ideas according to the scraped data, are, in order:

  1. Ocean Exploration Centre
  2. Hockey Stadium
  3. Johnsonville Upgrades
  4. The New Zealand Festival
  5. The Basin Reserve Redevelopment

The bottom five ideas according to the scraped data, are, 5 being worst:

  1. A longer runway (24)
  2. Infrastructure (including storm water) (25)
  3. Bus Priority and Vehicle Network (26)
  4. Stormwater Monitoring (27)
  5. Car Park Sensors (28)

So let’s go back and look at the news release from Council in a little more detail:

There was a 400% increase in the number of people submitting feedback via the web, which attracted 12,872 visits from 7568 people. Pages on the website were looked at 54,195 times.

The actual number of people who submitted via the website is 2,182. So while a lot of people visited, and the number is good, the actual response is low. In fact, overall it has quite a high margin of error. Particularly for low response ideas, i.e. World War I Commemorations, at 25% plus or minus.

The Council also had around 170 people speak at the Long Term Plan’s oral hearings. They were part of a total 1017 submissions received, including 597 emails, 232 online submissions and 188 written submissions in the post.

This seems to assert an earlier issue that was raised, and ignored, being that the Website wasn’t actually the formal mechanism for submissions. In other words, you could have your say, but if you wanted to formally submit, you had to go somewhere else to do it.

Now, I have an email trail that proves this, which can be released if necessary, and I want to state it again.

If you thought that using the “Our Ten Big Ideas” website was a formal submission to the Wellington City Council on the Long Term Plan, you are wrong. Further, I strongly encourage you to contact your Councillors and complain about the fact that the website if not misrepresented, construed that you were making a formal submission, in my opinion. 

* face palm and generally massive fail *

We know this because only 232 submissions were made online, but the data shows 2,182 responded to the “Our Ten Year Plan” website.

This is awful.

When asked in an online questionnaire if they support the Council’s broad approach to invest for growth – in addition to providing current levels of service – 70% said yes.

Where did this come from? Who can remember filling in an online questionnaire with this question? The questionnaire apparently also says that we are happy to see rate increases. Really? Everyone I talk to is fuming at the near fifty percent rate increase mooted over the length of the LTP. Who on earth did the poll?

The most submissions Council received on an issue were on cycling. It received 500 submissions with 493 supporting the plan to invest in a cycle path network.

So, the headline to the news article is “71% support for city’s ten-year plan; cycling gets most submissions”, which, you could be forgiven, seems to say that cycling is very important, if not most important of the ideas.

By our ranking, it comes in at number 19.

Here are some more discrepancies in the rankings:

  1. Council says that Longer Runway is 1, we rank it at 25
  2. Council says the Cycling Network is at 2, we rank it at 19
  3. Council says Hockey Stadium is 3, we rank it 2.
  4. Council says Ocean Exploration Centre is at 4, we rank it 1.
  5. Council says Johnsonville Upgrades is at 22, we rank it 3.

Surprise surprise. The Council’s two biggest hobby horses make it to number one and two where the website shows them down in the bottom of the pack from our perspective, the ratepayers.

Never missing an opportunity for self-congratulation;

The website was set up to communicate and engage with residents was a huge success with unparalleled traffic throughout the consultation period.

What a mess. Once again, in my opinion, the Council is cherry-picking statistics and “consultation” submissions in order to push through their political agenda rather than listen to the ratepayers, that not only have been, in my opinion, tricked by a pretty website, but also have shown that their priorities are at direct variance with our Council.

Worse, in my opinion it shows optimism bias, the inability to see things that might disrupt the pet project. That kind of bias is disastrous, because it overlooks risk and cost in projects, which then can lead to failure.

Just as well we don’t have much more than a year before elections.