Community Consultation is talked of a lot in the ACT, but never actually seen. How should community consultation work in an ideal situation?
The ACT government have unfortunately realised that if they talk about Community Consultation, 90% of the population will imagine that it is happening. Meanwhile the 10% of people who would like to be consulted have nowhere to express their thoughts.
There have been several examples of this recently. Letters to the Stanhope government about the dragway, drew responses stating that the community was represented in discussions. This turned out to be two community representatives who were barred from speaking to the community. At no time was I able to give them my thoughts, and they were formally banned from releasing information they had to base their recommendations on (noise reports etc.) My second letter to Jon Stanhope asking when I could provide my input drew the somewhat cranky reponse that ‘as I said, you are represented by the community representative.’
This government has had several goes at setting up community representative groups. Briefly, areas had LAPACS (local area planning groups). These were then disbanded for no apparent reason, after people had done a lot of work to set them up. This morning on ABC radio I heard that the government still claims to be liaising with these LAPACS as their major form of community consultation, and that letters are still sent to the (sacked) LAPAC reps. At first this seems like incompetence, but I think something more sinister is at play. The ACT Government have realised they only have to talk about community consultation, but they prefer not to actually do it, and they’ve realised they can get away with not doing any at all.
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What would be the best way for the government to consult with the community over planning issues?