Citizens' assembly project

Project overview banner

We are collaborating with the University of Auckland’s Centre for Informed Futures, Koi Tū, to host a citizens' assembly over four weekends from late July to early September 2022. This will trial the deliberative democracy process as a tool to help us navigate complex conversations and make decisions alongside our customers about the long-term future of Auckland’s water supply.

What is a citizens' assembly?

A citizens' assembly is a form of collaborative decision-making focused on bringing a diverse and representative group together. In our case, they will learn, deliberate and make an informed decision on a complex topic.

The focus is not on finding a perfect solution, but a consensus decision that everyone in the group can ‘live with’, in which the trade-offs are understood and weighed up.

What will the citizens' assembly discuss?

We're asking them to help answer: ‘What should be the next source (or sources) of water for Auckland?''

This means that from July – September:

  • We will bring 36 citizens together for four days over eight weekends
  • Provide information so they can understand the complexity of this issue and the different water source options
  • They will deliberate (a facilitated, reasoned and respectful discussion) over the question to see what consensus emerges
  • At the end, they will write a report and present it to our leadership team

Our intention is for the participants to work through different perspectives and trade offs to come to a consensus that helps us build a resilient water source past 2040.

How will it work?

Together with Koi Tū we will send out 10,000 invitations to a combination of postal addresses (obtained using NZ Post’s database) and email addresses from our database. These addresses will be chosen using “random sampling”, meaning that each address in the database has the equal chance of being selected. From those who accept the invitation, Koi Tū will select a sample that is demographically representative of Auckland in terms of ethnicity, age, gender, and education. Consequently, we can’t guarantee any one person a place on the assembly. However, there are different ways to get involved:

If you are a citizen:  

  • Help us shape the key issues in the citizens assembly by giving your feedback via – coming soon

  • For the latest project updates from Koi Tū, visit their Complex Conversations project website

If you are a business, community group or large stakeholder: 

  • We will soon be calling for stakeholder submissions – more information coming soon

Project background banner

Why this question and this approach?

Auckland is growing and our climate is changing - both are putting pressure on our limited resources. We have planned supply upgrades until the mid-2040s to keep ahead of water demand. However, we need to start planning for sources beyond 2040. This is important regardless of reform and what ownership structure we have.

It takes time to engage meaningfully on a complex topic, especially where there are trade-offs between economic, environmental and social impacts to consider. Once we’ve made a decision it will take time to build or create a new water supply and ensure we’ve followed all due process along the way. That’s why we’re starting now. We saw an opportunity to try a different approach to decision making, where the values and lived experiences of diverse social groups can be brought to the table alongside the required technical knowledge.

Koi Tū brings relevant experience in conducting research projects like this and their expertise is helping guide how we run the citizens' assembly. It’s a great partnership: we have a specific question we want to discuss and Koi Tū wants to build capacity in New Zealand for the important and complex conversations that we as a public need to have.

Watercare future water workshop 4

What have we done so far?

The Watercare-Koi Tū collaboration started in 2021 with four workshops in four areas of Auckland. Volunteer participants were recruited from our customer database. These short workshops helped us obtain early feedback on how to structure the full citizens' assembly.

Listen to a podcast about the deliberative democracy process and learnings from the four workshops.

Read an analysis on early learnings from the Watercare and Koi Tū partnership on deliberative democracy.