Regional Queensland – A New Approach

Investment and infrastructure development in regional Queensland is rapidly expanding, bringing with it enormous benefits to local communities and the Queensland economy as a whole. However, there are some key social impacts being experienced in regional communities, which include:

  • perceived and real loss of community identity
  • ability of social services to meet demand
  • increased traffic congestion
  • reduced amenity
  • loss of key habitats and environment.

Managing the combined effects of these pressures to ensure that communities are resilient to key changes is driving a new approach to community engagement.

Collaboration and engagement

Experience within regional communities dealing with cumulative impacts suggests that these impacts are best addressed collectively across industry, government and community.

A combined and collaborative approach among industry and government, characterised by a more inclusive dialogue with the community to understand and respond proactively to their issues, concerns and aspirations, is required to shift the paradigm.

The key difference for the emergent models of community engagement will be a company or project’s will or ability to collaborate and pool resources with other parties or agencies to lessen the overall effects of their operations on the community as a whole.

Strategic Collaboration

Collaboration efforts can vary according to complexity and effort. The management of cumulative impacts should have high investment on the part of all sectors and agencies, and requires a strategic approach to forming and building collaboration.

To achieve exceptional results, all sectors and agencies, especially in the mine-to-port supply chain, must adopt an approach where – above the sharing of information – there is an integration of disciplines and responsibilities, investment in community insight and an alignment of programs or projects to mitigate the risk of community outrage and activism.

In the new era, a transition will make sustainable development challenges easier, provided that there is a willingness by all parties in the supply chain, including government, to:

  • align goals, strategies, systems, people and processes
  • commit to the collaborative process and desired outcomes from the top down and across functions
  • openly share knowledge and information to establish trust and productive engagement
  • think, plan and commit beyond the short-term program and provide the resources required to support development, innovation and differentiation to sustain growth and mitigate cumulative impacts
  • share risks and rewards.

How to collaborate

Information exchanges and networking are relatively common across the industry and can include forums or workshops across industries to discuss common issues, identify potential solutions and coordinate activities.

Additionally, a collaborative and fully engaged approach, including the proactive management of the timing and location of developments and the collective management of data (for example, community issues), can be more challenging to implement, but can deliver some good outcomes.

An exemplar model may lie in parties within the mine-to-port supply chain; for example, having an independent body that collectively manages stakeholder issues and positively engages with the community to ensure that emerging issues are identified and that the industry is managing and meeting regulatory and community expectations.

Such a process or machinery may assist with reducing expectations and finding solutions for all organisations involved through a culture of collective accountability.

From a practice perspective, the fundamental community engagement principles still apply when designing engagement strategies and plans for these communities. Given the accessibility of readily available information and the sophistication of these communities, organisations have to be well-prepared prior to engaging with stakeholders.

Community engagement activities will continue to change and evolve from a practice perspective, the fundamental community engagement principles still apply when designing engagement strategies and plans for these communities.