The 2020-21 Federal budget was a bumper crop for regional Australia and for local government across the country. It outlined significant funding for infrastructure projects with a big boost for community infrastructure like shared pathways, tracks and trails.
Great news for regional areas like the Hunter.
Getting projects shovel ready
Even before the budget, we have seen a rush of local government tenders in the marketplace to get projects “shovel ready” to capitalise on government spending. This is likely to be exacerbated by the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's comments, stating that the funding would be on a “use it or lose it basis”. There is a potential for councils to rush projects, removing the community’s ability to have a say.
The value of community voices in decisions that impact them is crucial in preparing our public spaces for safe and COVID-friendly use.
Yes, consultation can be a complex process, but I am not convinced consultation and being shovel ready are mutually exclusive.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we all changed the way we do business. While our projects included an online presence pre-pandemic, now they are completely focused on effective consultation in a digital space. The lockdown forced everyone to operate online, meaning there was little pushback from our clients and the community in switching activities to a virtual space.
But is online engagement effective?
There are great benefits to online consultation and engagement. Online platforms are eye-catching and visually appealing to users. This generates greater interest, boosts participation and response rates. Recently we conducted online consultation on the future of cemetery and after-death services. While a complex and sensitive topic, we received interest from over 800 stakeholders with about 500 people providing feedback. It was simple and quick to set up and provided great insight for strategic planning.
Furthermore, online consultation provides access 24/7 providing flexibility for stakeholders to have their say, wherever and whenever they like. From a research perspective, we can also use technology to accurately capture location-based data where targeted feedback is important.
Explore online tools
Some are free and others subscription-based. Get online to explore different tools and take advantage of the free introductory offers. It’s a great way to work out if they are right for your activity.
While we all want to see the economic stimulus to help our communities, I wonder if removing stakeholder input from those decisions will lead to good community outcomes.
Is a rush to spend more important than how people want it spent? I don’t know... what do you think?
About the writer
Kelly Lofberg is a communication and engagement specialist. Kel loves all things strategy and even gets paid to play with LEGO!
But seriously, Kel specialises in media and issues management, social impact assessments, advocacy campaigns and strategic communication.
Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 49654317.