Water Journal : Water Journal September 2015
september 2015 water 37 Feature article the offer to Sydney Water. An example of the flexibility and direct impact of landowners on the project is that Sydney Water agreed to bore under some properties and driveways to avoid damaging existing improvements that would have been complex or impossible to restore fully. Agreed alignments and any timing or other requests were included in the agreements. These were illustrated on an aerial photograph showing existing improvements. Some landowners and stakeholders had concerns about the potential impact of the work on their property values and amenity. These ranged from opportunities for compensation to property access queries during construction. ENSure addressed these to the satisfaction of the landowners and Sydney Water. The real benefits of this stakeholder engagement program were seen during the construction phase. The chosen alignment was robust, with only minor adjustments required. The time and effort that went into preparing pre-construction customer agreements with affected landowners was demonstrated to be of value, with reduced complex issues management in construction. Developing these plans with landowners gives them a degree of ownership over how their property will be affected, as well as a clear picture of how their property will be remediated after construction. Early community involvement as the project progressed from concept to construction allowed landowners time to digest the implications of the project and seek independent advice if desired. Another point of difference was that, unlike many other projects that include general community engagement requirements in their Sydney Water tenders, this project included specific requirements relating to each landowner’s needs. ENSure worked with Sydney Water’s contracts team to include landowner requirements for construction timing, property access and property restoration in the tender material and coached the chosen contractor in how to adhere to the agreements made with landowners. This approach guaranteed the outcomes of the stakeholder engagement process were acted upon during the delivery phase and provided certainty to tenderers during procurement. conclusions This stakeholder engagement program emphasised forming working relationships with affected landowners. Sydney Water’s approach to stakeholder engagement ensured the decision-making process was transparent to affected customers, informing them at every point along the way. In the past, consultation with landowners has not typically occurred at this level of detail during the planning phase of growth-related projects. This led to issues in construction of other projects, which can cause time-consuming redesign and complaints – this has not been a major issue with this project. At the end of each project phase, community engagement outcomes reports documented lessons learnt and ongoing issues for management during subsequent phases. These reports helped identify feedback from landowners and incorporate suggestions about how they would like to be consulted in the future. A key project challenge was to help landowners understand maps, plans and diagrams of infrastructure. ENSure used experienced personnel who could explain to landowners face-to-face: • The respective roles of local and state government; • The land acquisition process; • Construction of infrastructure; • Implications for existing improvements and future development opportunities; • The water servicing process for developers; • Where landowners could go for more detailed independent advice. Implementing effective stakeholder engagement plans during the design and planning stages of infrastructure projects benefits communities and service providers. It makes property access for investigations and construction smoother. Coordinating with other agencies operating in the area saves time and money. Doing as much as possible to limit the impact of multiple projects on landowners improves relationships with the community and other agencies. WJ the authors michael robertson (email: Michael.Robertson@ ghd.com) is the Service Group Manager for GHD’s Stakeholder Engagement and Social Sustainability Group and has over 14 years’ experience working in community and stakeholder engagement across the public and private sectors. He has developed and implemented comprehensive stakeholder engagement and communications plans, facilitated community meetings and delivered social and digital media management. Michael aims to always ensure that stakeholder engagement is integrated into the project planning, design and delivery phases of projects. Gina Newling is a Senior Consultant with GHD. She is an experienced community and stakeholder engagement professional and also a Certified Practising Planner. Gina has over 20 years’ experience in local and state government and the private sector. She has extensive experience in preparing communication plans and strategies and in all phases of the development and infrastructure project life cycle from strategic planning to construction and operation. GHD’s Stakeholder Engagement and Social Sustainability team has worked on a range of infrastructure projects including water and wastewater infrastructure planning and construction, flood and coastal management studies, regional boating plans, natural resource and water renewal projects, airports, roads and bridges, interchanges, rail and schools. Face-to-face briefings were well received by the community.
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