Achieving Effective Public Participation in Public Interest Environmental Conflicts (Posted 6 May 2015)

TAGS: Environment; conflict; public interest; public participation; ADR; interest-based negotiation; community consultation; Commission of Inquiry; litigation; coal seam gas.

(i)    At a rally in South-West Victoria on 3 May 2015, the local community expressed their concerns about coal seam gas operations in their region.

(ii)   The community “had serious concerns about the level of community consultation involved in CSG licensing”. Also if the green light were to be given to the mining companies by Government, “that's when we'll go into the next gear and look at what we can do”.

(iii)   A public rally, as a tactic, can act as a trigger to seek a response from Government: to take some form of action to assess how real and serious the environmental impacts of a proposed development or activity might be; and to maintain public confidence in Government.

(iv)   In most situations, the general response by Government is to set up some form of public participation process to engage the community – local, agricultural, Indigenous, youth, conservation… - in finding a solution for the conflict.

(v)   The community, on the other hand, may decide to litigate.

(vi)   The key for finding a solution for any public interest environmental conflict through public participation is to ensure that the process is effective; and equally as important, to understand the difference between "resolving conflict" e.g ADR and "settling a dispute" e.g litigation.

(vi)  But, what are the requirements to ensure a public participation process is effective?


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