The community consultation process for the Toondah Harbour Priority Development Scheme was badly compromised from the start. It commenced with a series of community engagements sessions in August 2013 and then the publishing of the Toondah Harbour Community Engagement Report and the accompanying Summary Report.
The glaring hiatus between these reports and the Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area Proposed Development Scheme (released in January) was soon obvious. At the public consultation forums held in January it was obvious that key officers were oblivious to the findings of the earlier consultation and more importantly the Redlands 2030 Community Plan, which establishes the community values that these planners were responsible for protecting. Equally, these officers were at first unaware and then dismissive of the STIR petition in 1988 in which 12 000 people opposed like PDA development. How many times must a community fight the same fight.
Launched at great cost and some fanfare the community consultation was to be an exemplar process. This was to demonstrate how the State Government’s new Economic Development Act would rid development decision making in Queensland of “red” and “green tape” and set free a mantra of economic growth. Instead the community has judged the consultation to have been flawed and failed and more a rush to build something, anywhere. The domination of the State Government in the process calls into question whether the Council had any independence in the PDA process, and certainly questions the wisdom of Councillors in surrendering planning powers to the State under the guise of the PDA.
On the community consultation process alone, a community spokesperson Steve MacDonald said “the messages were blurred, contradictory and confused and it was a mile short of contemporary or best practice community consultation”.
At last the Council admitted the PDA consultation was flawed process. It sought the Ministers approval for more time so it could properly consult its community. This was reported in the Bayside Bulletin. It was clear that Council knew more time was required for the community to adequateley respond to the proposed development scheme.
Minister Seeney rejected Council’s request. But his decision was not made known until a week after the advertised consultation period closed. In so doing he betrayed Council and completely disempowered those waiting to have their input. At the time Steve MacDonald said “To continue with a flawed process, as the Minister intends, only reinforces our view that “they” have already made their minds up …so why bother”
Mr MacDonald said “the PDA document itself was complex, confused and tedious to read. It failed the readability test and it failed the plain English test. If anything it stands as an exemplar of the “red tape” that the PDA process was intended to replace. The Minister’s decision did not augur well for the any subsequent advice by Council to the Minister.
According to Mr MacDonald the flaws were continuos and he pointed out “for most people Toondah Harbour is the land around the Ferry Terminal and when they are told it extends to the nearby Park and large areas of the Bay the usual response was “That’s not Toondah Harbour”. So even the name given to the PDA misled many people”.
At the first public information session, people were told there was a mistake in the drafting of the Development Scheme. Although the mistake was reported in local media there was no official response and no correction was ever published. The mistake remained but it was not mentioned again at subsequent public sessions. It is possible that all the submissions may were based on a known mistake.
Around this time people were heartened to learn that the Deputy Mayor shared their concerns. His advice gave hope when he confirmed an extension of the consultation period was in the wind, and he went on to say that “much of the confusion in the community about the Toondah PDA is understandable because the concept plan presented for consultation is seriously flawed, and in retrospect, should never have gone out for comment”.
Many people conclude that the public consultation on the Toondah Harbour PDA was flawed, it failed. On this the Deputy Mayor was right.