Last month, Harbinger Consultants instigated a small independent research project to capture community attitudes to consultation and engagement in South East Queensland. Residents of the SEQ region were invited to complete a brief online survey.
The report – Survey Report: South East Queensland Community Attitudes to Consultation and Engagement – is now published online via Scribd and embedded on this blog post.
We were motivated to undertake this project after receiving mixed messages from community members in our own consultation work as well as observing mounting opposition to development, infrastructure and planning initiatives. At a recent presentation by the Major Cities Unit, comment was made about the ‘type of planning profession’ that had developed in Australia and so we believe there is some need to consideration professional values and delivery together with growth pressures, urban economics and community dynamics. This makes the task of consultation complex indeed.
Survey responses reveal a range of frustrations and tensions in consultations about planning and development in particular. Respondent preferences for and expectations of consultation and engagement methods have not been met. The results demonstrate a desire for more open and transparent processes among respondents and a general sense that consultation is ‘going through the motions’. Issues have been raised about communication, quality of engagement, professionalism of project teams, community capacity, attitudes and the need for follow up. Respondents also identify expectations and opportunities for better consultation.
While we recognise the limitations of this study, its findings can help professionals better design their consultations and respond to changing community expectations about these processes. We are now in the process of identifying what these results mean for us and our work. Our consultancy work is strongly values driven with a commitment to learning and continuous improvement. We will be working with the survey results to develop more discussion papers and resources.
Our thanks to all those people in South East Queensland who participated in the survey. We will be distributing it to colleagues and decision makers.