Media Release - In-person Engagement Lacking

Published on Wednesday, 13 March 2024 at 10:37:00 AM

Despite the WA State Government trumpeting ‘have your say’, ‘your perspective is valuable’ and ‘engage with us’, on the Proposed South Coast Marine Park, community members have expressed frustration to Councillors and senior staff about the lack of clarity in the information presented, and the absence of officers familiar with the design of the proposed park.

Council has advocated extensively to the Premier, Ministers, Departments, the Director General and Park Planners, highlighting the need to have knowledgeable officers on the ground in the community most impacted during the consultation period. Officers who can actually direct people to relevant information within the plans, and answer questions about the proposed park. Without speciality staff to help the people - who live, work, invest and have connections to this region - understand the impact of the documents, there is no way for informed and effective submissions to be delivered.

Those enquiring at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) office in Esperance are handed a pamphlet, told to call a phone number, and someone should get back to them – or they are pointed to online resources for answers to their questions. This ignores the fact that the questions usually come from a need to clarify the online information, and emphasises that the day-to-day staff are not the marine park planners who know this project inside out.

Community members have highlighted this deficiency, expressing frustration at the lack of in-person assistance from DBCA, and the complex nature of the documents in the consultation. Opinion expressed to Council and Shire personnel has emphasised the overwhelming amount of “government-talk” presented, with the repetition of information in the documents also creating confusion.

“Complex ideas are easily expressed in plain English, but these documents are not written or laid out in plain English. The community is expected to read and comment on about 300 Management Strategies in the four Plans covering this proposed park. I think regular people will struggle to not only understand, but also submit their opinion”, said Shire of Esperance President, Ron Chambers.

“We need the skilled park planners down here” he said, “providing knowledgeable face-to-face answers to this very invested community. If DBCA won’t send staff here for the entire period of the consultation, they need to make sure their park planners are down here regularly and are readily available to help the community. Not a pamphlet in the hand and a ‘we’ll see if we can catch you with a return phone call’.”

The Minister made a commitment to facilitate those affected by this project, ensuring they are involved in the decision-making process; this must be realised.

“We’re keen to see DBCA invest in officers and park planners” said President Chambers. “Allow them to actively engage and answer questions at community events like the Condingup Fair and the Esperance Deep Sea Angling Club Esperance Classic. Stalls at the Boulevard shopping centre, the markets and over the Easter long weekend would capture – and importantly, reliably inform - residents and visitors alike. As it stands, the lack of on the ground expertise means misinformation and confusion is rife.”

If DBCA are truly invested in having a marine park guided by stakeholders, over their current path of manipulating community consultation to get the result they want, international best practice must be followed.



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