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Community Consultation?

AG Canberra 29 May 2008 33

CT is reporting that the fearless leader of our toy parliament is doing a bit of navel gazing regarding “community consultation”. They are obviously getting the vibe that we think they make decisions in isolation etc.

But what sort of consultation do we as residents, workers, business owners, parents, ratepayers, drivers etc expect?

When they want to close some schools – how do we expect to be consulted?

When they are keen for a data centre and power plant – what do we want to know and how do we want to find out (and when)?

Often the easiest way is to make the decision then consult. All that does is put the the consultees off side.

Should we seek out the info – websites etc or do we expect letterbox drops with info on anything that may affect us….

Whadya reckon?


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33 Responses to Community Consultation?
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miz miz 3:25 pm 31 May 08

Cap’n, as Stanhope=hero to zero, a bit of both kinds of ‘straw’ I guess. I am checking out the new CAP party, and/or independents and Greens.

captainwhorebags captainwhorebags 11:27 am 31 May 08

miz: is it a “vote them out next election” last straw, or a “storm the barricades” last straw?

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 10:31 pm 30 May 08

Need I go on?

No, you’ve suffered enough. Move. Please.

Pandanus77 Pandanus77 10:19 pm 30 May 08

and while we’re at it remember the fuss when Black Mountain Tower was first proposed, life as we knew it was about to end if we listened to the opponents. They even had a high court challenge. More recently of course was the GDE debarcle with the save the ridge group and their delaying tactics, the anti-dragway protestors and their recent success, and lets not forget the ever increasing restrictions on fireworks now there’s a classic result of community consultation, complain each and every year about an activity and each time the spineless moron who calls himself/herself the responsible minsiter will impose harsher and harsher restrictions on the use of said fireworks, its death by a thousand cuts. Ultiately a minority of the population (killjoys) get their way and everyone else misses out. At a larger scale we see it with the Tassie pulp mill, the Syney desalination plant and local residents.

Pandanus77 Pandanus77 10:10 pm 30 May 08

…..and who says the community and community councils get it right? Remember back in 1992 when the Weston Creek community council opposed the harvesting of the pine forest in Eucumbene Drive, Warragamba Avenue and surrounds. They organised rally’s and provoked an outcry from the local “community”, some old biddy even wrote to the Canberra Times calling for “our native pine forest to be left intact”.

Lets face it the community is a pretty fluid sort of thing, “if you agree with me you’re a part of the communtiy, heaven help you if you’re not”. Have you ever wondered every single group that claims to represent the community has an instant maifesto that “everyone” somehow agrees with regardless of how much of a nutter the speokesperson is?

Deano Deano 9:03 pm 30 May 08

Whatsup said :

Deano, got an update for you on that one. The preschool was close to full capacity (24 our of 25 places) but the government distributed incorrect information about the enrollment numbers in their glossy brochure.

Fair enough – I stand corrected.

deezagood said :

Quite honestly Deano – are you really saying that ACTEWAGL couldn’t have managed the consultation process just a wee bit better?

I don’t disagree with you there and this thread is intended to ascertain just what good consultation is. To summarise the response so far – good consultation involves:

* Personally advising everyone with even a remote possibility of being affected (and, as one poster wanted, within at least a 20km radius). This also includes unrelated government departments, kangaroos, earless lizards etc.

* Provide detailed plans, costings, studies, research papers etc. But they have to be ‘independent’ because nobody will believe them otherwise. This means they can’t be paid for by the developer, or the government because we don’t trust them either. And don’t dare use the regulatory standards as parameters for your design because they aren’t good enough for everybody.

* Do the above before actually developing any plans.

* Take on board any concerns, criticisms, or suggestions by anyone no matter how little it affects them. Failure to do so is an automatic indication of failure to consult.

* Repeat the above steps until everyone is happy.

* And once you get everyone’s agreement, you can go ahead but only on the proviso that you understand that anyone can mount a legal challenge at the last minute and hold up your project for years.

Simply really. I can’t imagine why we don’t have more investment here.

Sorry if this sounds cynical but I haven’t seen any suggestions that would actually make the process workable and constructive. At the end of the day we live in a free democratic capitalist society – a society that infers certain rights for property owners to do as they wish on their property as long as it conforms to the requirements defined by the government of the day. As I’ve said before, town planning by angry mob is no way to run a modern society.

Whatsup Whatsup 5:47 pm 30 May 08

Deano said :

… the closure of the Macarthur preschool which deprived a total of nine of Macarthur’s kiddies the opportunity to a decent education.

Deano, got an update for you on that one. The preschool was close to full capacity (24 our of 25 places) but the government distributed incorrect information about the enrollment numbers in their glossy brochure. I am sorry you didn’t get the full story but its helped the government justify the closure as a part of their “consultation process.” A fine example of not letting the facts get in the way of a government funded story, thank you for raising it.

deezagood deezagood 5:26 pm 30 May 08

Look; Canberra is my temporary work location and I’ll probably be transferred back to Melbourne in the few years. I do live in Macarthur, so I view this power-plant saga through my NIMBY lense – although my backyard is but a temporary one.

I have some understanding of project management and consultation processes for new projects. Good consultation is a two-way process, involving dialogue, discussion, appeasement and, sometimes, negotiation/compromise to ensure the needs of both parties are met. Other development applications for power plants of this type have chapters/sections dedicated to the consultaion process; detailing steps taken, concerns raised, and discussion about measures undertaken to mitigate those concerns where necessary. If you would like to see an example of active and comprehensive community consultation, check out the lengthy paper dedicated to community consultation on the proposed Majura dragway.That project was in Mr Barr’s electorate though … so I guess they made more of an effort in that particular case. An article or two in the CT, entitled ‘Datacentre in Hume’ hardly consitutes active community consultation.

What didn’t ACTEW do:

Rosemary Lissamore, the President of Tuggeranong’s community council, had absolutely no idea about this developmnent; she found out through the same horse-riding lady that told the rest of the community. One of the Community Council’s main roles is to work with government in the community planning process.

The residents most affected by the proposal (who, as stated in the report, would have been exposed to excessive noise levels) were not afforded the courtesy of an explanation – either in person or in writing.

The staff and patients of the mental health facility were not advised of this project – and apparently they were going to be MOVED (they just found this out this week).

The Dump/revolve workers, right next to the power plant, (and who’s daily emission exposure levels were likely to be far in excess of the WHO standards) were not informed.

CASA, the EPA, the BOM etc… were not consulted about this project. The health Minister admits that she wasn’t consulted about this project. The horse owners, forced to find new homes for their horses, were not consulted about this project.

Quite honestly Deano – are you really saying that ACTEWAGL couldn’t have managed the consultation process just a wee bit better?

belcc belcc 4:51 pm 30 May 08

I have always found that government departments are pretty good at getting in touch with the community councils to get the word out about any projects they are running, or developments they are planning.

Issues are far more likely to occur with private developers, who after all have a financial incentive to avoid consultation. This is due both to the upfront costs of consultation, and costs if they are asked to make (less profitable) design changes from community objections lodged about the Development Application.

That said, the smarter private developers still *do* actively consult, because they recognise the PR and litigation problems that will inevitably arise if they don’t.

Anyone who wants to know about all development activities in Canberra should bookmark the ACTPLA DA site: http://apps.actpla.act.gov.au/pubnote/index.asp. Plans for virtually *every* building development will appear here at some point.

And if you see something that you don’t like — call or email your local Community Council! Ask them to set up a meeting about the issue. We are here to promote discussion and debate about these kinds of issues, after all.

Stephen Bounds
President
Belconnen Community Council

miz miz 4:30 pm 30 May 08

So this power station is totally the last straw.

miz miz 4:30 pm 30 May 08

I seem to have spent the last few years fighting this govt. They have closed Tharwa Bridge. I spent a year freaking out and sweating over trying to keep my kid’s school open. I have lost my security of tenure on my govt home (broken election promise, and the most unconsultative consultation I have seen so far, and that’s saying something!). They fecked up the buses, then tried to totally delete my work bus run with the new timetable. They want to put loo water in my latte. They have closed one library (griffith) and put another one in a stupid, out-of-the-way place (Civic). The GDE is a joke and I still take the Monaro home from UC as the traffic is ridiculous south of spaghetti junction (but probably worse north, I acknowledge). They have killed lots of rare trees because they planted them in a drought, spending thousands on them when they were closing schools. They have wasted $$$ on post fire court proceedings. Need I go on?

miz miz 4:18 pm 30 May 08

Sepi is correct. Data storage is simly a warehouse. Hume is full of these warehouses, so no one cared. BUT this is not simply a warehouse.

Power plants similar to this one (even the smaller ‘aren’t we nice we are reducing it’ version) elsewhere in australia, eg Alice Springs, have caused such outrage (and class actions)due to noise and filthy fumes 24/7 that it was moved to 20 kms out of town.

THis is not a numby issue it is a Canberra wide issue. These kinds of developments should be NOWHERE NEAR homes. We have always had good clean water and good clean air in Canberra. Seems ACTEW want to feck Canberra up for the sake of the holy dollar.

Deano Deano 4:01 pm 30 May 08

sepi said :

How many people have to say that a newspaper article does not make for consultation? Less than half of Canberra reads the paper. And a single article about a completely different suburb is not going to make anyone sit up and take notice.

There were three major articles in the paper, as well as stories on television news and radio. Even the ABC website has the story. If you expect to have a say in things happening in your area you have a responsibility to keep yourself informed. Obviously the half of Canberrans that don’t read the paper live in Macarthur!

And redback, you forgot to mention the closure of the Macarthur preschool which deprived a total of nine of Macarthur’s kiddies the opportunity to a decent education. Life is tough up on the hill.

aidan aidan 3:56 pm 30 May 08

It gives me the shits when legitimate lobbying against poor decisions by the Government is automatically labelled “whinging” and “special interest pleading”. I am referring specifically to the Towards 2020 schools debacle. Christ on a bike that was a shit bit of policy. No planning, no research, no consultation with teachers or the Education bureaucracy, just throwing some darts at a map and whipping up a spiffy pdf to try and sell it. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

(see http://towards2020.wordpress.com/2006/07/07/tuggeranong-figures-a-shambles/ and http://towards2020.wordpress.com/2006/08/09/tuggeranong-a-shambles-belconnen-a-farce/ for examples)

In that case it wasn’t possible to shrug your shoulders and wait until the next election, the Government would (did) close the schools by then.

I used to think Governments did their best in good faith. Not. Any. More.

sepi sepi 3:55 pm 30 May 08

How many people hae to say that a newspaper article does not make for consultation? Less than half of Canberra reads the paper. And a single article about a completely different suburb is not going to make anyone sit up and take notice.

It really isn’t up to the community to scour the paper for any developments in nearby areas, in case the govt is being a bit disingenous.

And teh ‘refurb’ of the rehab centre is ancient news now. But again, it was the development by stealth that angered people.

Simon Corbell called it a minor refurb, and it turned out to mean it was so big it would block access across the entire reserve walking track, turning a small house sized thing into a small hospital (was it 3 stories?) complete with a carpark espcially for busses.

Deano Deano 3:46 pm 30 May 08

sepi said :

For the macarthur thing they ran a couple of newspaper articles about a data centre in Hume. Then opened a consultation period. Noone paid any attention, cos industrial development belongs in Hume.

The newspaper articles were the start of the consultation process. If you can’t be bothered to take notice and start participating in the process then I can’t see what you have to complain about.

redback said :

To the people who characterise Macarthur residents as NIMBY whingers, I’d say that when you have a rubbish tip, a prison, a helicopter landing area and a drug rehab centre all within a few kilometers of your home – your backyard is full.
.

redback, your comment is well beyond Nimbyism and into cave people territory. Are you honestly suggesting that everyone in Macarthur should be consulted on any development within a 20km radius? Please explain how any of these facilities adversely affects your little piece of nirvana in any way? I live not far from the drug rehab centre and in 20 years there has never been an adverse incident involving the centre. Most people didn’t even know what it was until the Macarthur nimbies kick up a fuss about it.

redback redback 2:46 pm 30 May 08

You’d have think that some lessons would have been learned after the Karalika (rehab centre) expansion debacle. But it was almost the same story; limited information distributed in a general way so nobody understood the implications of what was being proposed til late in the day. At least with Karalika the immediate neighbours were told – in detail – what was proposed. They alerted the rest of the community and the balloon went up from there.

The one thing that has resulted from the various proposals for the area (Dragstrip, Karalika expansion, power plant) is that the residents are now more effective in stopping them. Practice makes perfect.

To the people who characterise Macarthur residents as NIMBY whingers, I’d say that when you have a rubbish tip, a prison, a helicopter landing area and a drug rehab centre all within a few kilometers of your home – your backyard is full.

Put the power station on the fairway at Gold Creek Country Club.

.

sepi sepi 2:21 pm 30 May 08

For the macarthur thing they ran a couple of newspaper articles about a data centre in Hume. Then opened a consultation period. Noone paid any attention, cos industrial development belongs in Hume.

People responded at the last minute when it became clear the project was actually a massive gas plant, and it was in (or almost in) Macarthur.

I suggested letterbox drops and notices at the local shops. This would have alerted people earlier, and more slow paced, thoughtful consultation could have begun, instead of residents starting off by feeling tricked and ignored.

ant ant 2:11 pm 30 May 08

they’d do better to be more open about all development ideas at the earliest stages. Before they’ve earmarked land, before they’ve got into bed with the money people… when something’s at the proposal stage. Get it out there, and keep developments public.

That way, people can be informed and comment before it’s too far down teh track. This debacle was an utter mess because they proceeded so quietly, effectively in league with the developers vs the residents.

VicePope VicePope 2:08 pm 30 May 08

Sepi – there was an invitation to consult. Most people didn’t take it until (as Deano pointed out) the last minute, and then they started screaming like babies who’ve lost their dummies.

Ultimately, the ACT will need the capacity. The Macarthur/Hume site was considered probably the best available spot. The locals got stinky about it, and so the thing was downsized. But the extra capacity will have to come from somewhere – and wherever is chosen, the residents will, no doubt, have every right to spit the dummy too.

There’s a bit of me that would like it in sight of Jerrambombera.

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