This week’s lecture series and essential readings were focused on the importance of public participation and stakeholder input in the environmental decision making process. Additional research first led me to the PISCES website (Partnerships Involving Stakeholders in the Celtic Sea Ecosystem). Here I found a collection of case studies, which demonstrated how making the voice of stakeholders heard and integrating their knowledge, can make a real difference to benefitting both the environment and people. For example, Case Study 2 – Pescatourism, France, tells the story of how negative media framing of fishing in the Var region in France was resulting in extensive public concern and objection to fishing practices. As a result an initiative was set up called Pesca-tourism which proposed the idea of encouraging tourists to come aboard small-scale boats to learn about local fishing practices. The close collaboration between local stakeholders of this project and the French administration resulted in amendments to French legislation to add this new activity and take account of the small boats of the Var region. In addition people were educated and the public image of small-scale fishing in this area was successfully remediated.

Further research led me to the EDO website, where I began to investigate the importance of stakeholder engagement in a legal context. In the Friends of Turramurra Inc v Minister for Planning a critical error of the developers was that after holding a public hearing they then made changes to the project. This highlights the issue of information being heard but not actually doing anything about it as stated in the lecture. As a result the judge found that the changes made to the project after public exhibition had significant impacts and the project should have been re-exhibited. The project was ultimately forced to remediate such changes before being able to go ahead.

In the Nambucca Valley Conservation Association Inc v Nambucca Shire Council & Anor case the development was again rejected because the developers failed to take in to account public submissions made in relation to an earlier version of the development. In addition, the Council failed to advertise the final version of the development, which had changed significantly from the first application in 2003 to the final version in 2008. This case again elucidates the importance of listening, considering and valuing the public’s concern.

One of the reported drawbacks of public participation and stakeholder engagement is time constraints and economic costs. But it is noted in my research that although time consuming if rushing the project means potential for the project to be shut down then time and money seem like a small price to pay in order to eliminate court appeals and merits reviews in the long run. Court hearings down the line are both incredibly time consuming and costly, so why not cross these hurdles in the beginning? Ultimately public participation and stakeholder engagement are immensely important and should be conducted as early as possible in order to facilitate the process and ensure long-term success of any project.

References Oy_BRDg4Iqok57a4kcSJADsuDK1TCqSyfBt5l1qxuurHIKgN0mnoVMYh8MirTkLi Zwx6hoCYoXw_wcB we_learnt/stakeholder_engagement_case_study_films/

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