Building a transparent and accountable council
Building transparency begins with ensuring our community chooses collaborative and fair elected members who value integrity and transparency. Our elected members should also have a very clear understanding of what transparency “looks like” and how to acheive it.
Community engagement – also known as consultation – is one of the ways we build transparency.
For different pieces of work we have different ways in which we consult with the community. Consult can mean many things – and over many years many organisations have argued that informing a community is akin to consulting with them.
Under certain circumstances it is – such as for highly legislated activities. That doesn’t change the fact though that we should engage our community from the front end wherever possible.
My view is that we work with our community from the time a project or initiative is identified and then our engagement is a continuum – this is what is viewed in the industry as best practice.
Wherever possible I like to work across what is known as co-design – where the community and the council works together to decide on and implement a solution.
And for community consultation to be at its most effective we all have to be informed decision-makers.
A TRANSPARENCY AND ENGAGEMENT EXAMPLE
Let’s say we are looking at a new waste management system. There are many legislated elements to waste management as well as emerging trends and technologies.
Therefore I would begin with an education process – using our website, school tours and education, community briefings, focus groups, workshops, street talks and general media to talk with the community about the options as well as our community values, aspirations and needs.
This gives us the foundation for a proposed set of solutions. We then engage with the community to work through the options – again using digital media, focus groups, general media, workshops, community briefings and other tools to determine preferred way forward.
On selecting the preferred option we then educate the community about the incoming system and what it means for them. Throughout each stage we build community knowledge and participation – we actually do this beyond implementation.
The same process stands true for most initiatives.
My community engagement experience
I’ve worked with various councils, the community, media and private industry to develop and bring new waste management systems to councils in Adelaide and again in Cairns and then in Port Macquarie
In South Australia I worked with irrigators, local government and our water authority across agricultural areas to develop a fit for purpose water solution and to secure government funding to support this solution.
With this project we reduced effluent polluting the ocean and redirected reclaimed water to irrigators. This meant our landowners had a more reliable water supply and could use more of their land and they were not drawing on the water table. This resulted in us protecting our drinking water supply and reducing infrastructure needs and costs into the future.
Health and wellbeing
In bringing a FINA compliant swimming centre to a suburban council area in Adelaide I worked with senators, ministers at all levels of government as well as the community.
I’ve also worked across the table with all levels of government in the development of master planned communities in Cairns and the Northern Territory.
Years of Community Engagement Experience
Local, State and Federal engagement projects
Our community environment
I’ve worked with communities to develop placemaking programs to upgrade streets and footpaths, parks and gardens.
I drove the community design and planning for sustainable infrastructure development across the Daintree and Cape Tribulation – which is home to TWO WORLD HERITAGE LISTED AREAS
In Cairns I designed and introduced an initiative called Sustainability Street – helping suburban families take actions to save money and resources and show others how simple it was to do so
I joined forces with the community to design and deliver placemaking projects – creating hubs where the community comes together – one example is Wauchope near Port Macquarie in NSW – completely reinvigorating town main street landscapes and precincts.