Community Perspective on Consultation on Urban Stormwater Management: Lessons from Brownhill Creek, South Australia
Dillon, Peter J
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There are salutary lessons from contrasting community consultation efforts in 2011 and 2015 to develop and gain support for an urban stormwater management plan for the Brownhill Creek catchment in Adelaide, South Australia. The 2011 process was a failure in the human dimension, precipitating loss of community confidence, unnecessarily entrained thousands of hours of time of residents who initiated a community action group for environmental conservation and caused a three-year delay to decision making. By contrast, the 2015 process was vastly improved, resulted in a landslide level of support for an obvious option not previously offered, achieved the required level of flood protection, saved Aus$5 million (14%) on the previously proposed option and protected a highly valued natural environment from an unnecessary dam. This paper presents a rarely heard perspective on these community consultation processes from a participating community environmental and heritage conservation action group (the Brownhill Creek Association) that was deeply engaged in reforming the Draft Brown Hill Keswick Creek Stormwater Management Plan. This reveals that the community needs to see that all options are considered and to have access to accurate information with which to assess them. It is also necessary that the proposed plan is consistent with existing agreed plans and policies developed through public consultation. Community concerns need to be heard, acknowledged and acted upon or responded to, and the consultation process needs to be transparently fair and democratic to win community support. A major contributor to success in the second consultation was that all community action groups were invited to meetings to discuss the purpose of the consultation and the methods to be used. Feedback was subsequently received before the process commenced to show what had changed and why any suggestions concerning the consultation process were not being adopted. This openness helped to mend the distrust of the first consultation process and is recommended as an essential early step in any public consultation process.