Is consultation interactive?

Blog 2

I have been involved in community consultation on a couple of occasions now primarily following OEH guidelines in relation to Aboriginal heritage.  Possibly because I took it seriously, it was quite an interactive process with a considerable amount of input taken into consideration.  On the scale of public interaction provided in the lecture notes it was most likely an “Involve” rather than a consult.

I was surprised to discover that on the scale of public interaction, community consultation is on the relatively low end.  There is a public perception that “community consultation” is interactive, that their voice will be heard, that they are making a difference, when in reality its closer to the “inform” than the “collaborate” or “empower” they think it is.

I may be a bit cynical but it is easy to see how an unscrupulous organisation could use the guise of community consultation as a PR exercise.  The example given of the drop in information session for the light rail is a good example of this.  Members of the public may think it’s part of an interactive consultation process and that their opinions will be taken into consideration, but the plans have already been drawn up and contracts signed.  The project will pretty much be going ahead regardless of feedback resulting from the “Community Forum”.  Unfortunately this session appears to be a “just so you know” warning for when trucks show up and traffic slows down.

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