Operating with a top down approach, where the Council decide on projects, prepare the bulk of the work and then inform the community at the very end, usually leaving little time for the community to understand the information, prepare comment and have that information legitimately included in the direction of the project.
Instead of leaving the community last, Council need to involve the community at the early stages of projects. Otherwise community consultation is undertaken with an ‘inform and defend’ strategy with no outcomes of any real consequence from community feedback. What is required is true community consultation where information is discussed, feedback is received and evaluated, and outcomes are as a result of collaborative discussions between decision makers and the community.
Council could ensure community consultation is a fair process by ensuring residents are better informed of projects that will potentially provide negative impacts to their lifestyle. A concerted effort to directly contact affected residents shouldn’t be based on simple measures or the cheapest option which is often a reliance on mass media which can be easily overlooked. Council should provide as much effort to inform the community as they do when they wish to collect rates or fines.
Timeframes also need to be extended to ensure the community have adequate time to understand the information associated with the project, pose questions or request additional information and then formulate informed feedback. It should also be mandatory for time to be factored into the process to allow for implementation of changes to the project as a result of feedback.