Tech boosts engagement in council projects

Tamworth Regional Council is using an online platform to boost community engagement and interest in council projects.

My TRC Online Community was launched in January 2019 and uses digital products created by Harvest Digital Planning.

Jody Young, Communications & Engagement Officer for Tamworth Regional Council, said the platform has received over 100,000 views since it launched.

Jody Young with Mayor Col Murray

In the past few months, Council has introduced a new option that allows the community to follow a specific project.

“If you like a project, you can click the ‘follow’ button and you get email notifications if there are any updates to that page,” she told Government News.

“I think if the majority of the community is happy, you don’t hear from them, they’re just happy doing their day to day stuff, but they’re the people that we want to hear from.”

Checking dam levels

One of the projects getting good traction is Council’s town water page. It is currently on Level 4 water restrictions, and the page has been keeping the community informed.

“It’s had over 3,000 views on it, so that’s really good from an education point of view that people are actually going on there and reading that information,” Ms Young said.

Residents have enjoyed the ease of using the page to check dam levels, find out what they are and aren’t allowed to do and receive prompt replies to their questions.

“We have a policy with those that if they do ask a question, we get back to them straight away, within a day unless it’s over the weekend,” Ms Young said.

Tamworth Regional Council is not the only council using Harvest Digital Planning. Other councils, including Melbourne City Council, Banyule City Council and City of Canterbury Bankstown, are also using the platform.

Harvest holds regular workshops for councils to discuss ideas and innovative ways of using its digital tools.

Zooming in on projects

Ms Young says what sets Tamworth Regional Council apart from the other councils is its use of drone imagery on its platform.

By working with its Geographic Information System team, it is using drone imagery to allow residents to zoom into different areas of a project.

“If the project’s relating to a park … you can zoom right into where the work is going to be done, and then click on it and have a look at what the work will be like when it’s completed,” she said.

The platform has given a voice to residents who wouldn’t normally contact Council, Ms Young said.

“I think if the majority of the community is happy, you don’t hear from them, they’re just happy doing their day to day stuff, but they’re the people that we want to hear from,” she said.  

“You don’t always want to hear from the people who are upset about something or the project’s going to affect them in some way.”

Engagement from community

Engagement levels from the community have increased since the platform launched, however, Ms Young believes that could also be due to the nature of projects Council is working on.

“I believe the engagement’s definitely ramped up. I think the platform’s made it easier and more exciting, but I think the projects themselves are what is making the people engaged,” she said.

Council was awarded the RH Dougherty Award in August this year for its work on the platform.

“Tamworth Council has listened and is prepared to listen and act on what their community wants and needs,” said the judges in their comments.

“This platform provides and (sic) avenue for all ages to communicate with Council. An absolutely innovative Council.”

Council will continue working with Harvest and other councils to further develop the digital tools that are available.

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