Moorebank Intermodal Terminal

Project name: The Moorebank Intermodal Terminal Citizens’ Jury

Client: The Moorebank Intermodal Company

Award: This project was Highly Commended in the 2015 IAP2 Core Values Awards (Infrastructure).

Background: An intermodal terminal, to facilitate the transfer of goods to, from and within Sydney, and to relieve traffic congestion on Sydney’s roads, is being planned for Moorebank, in Sydney’s south-west. The terminal will bring considerable benefits to the broader community including:

  • Enhanced economy: $9 billion in economic benefits through improved productivity, reduced business costs, reduced road congestion and better environmental outcomes
  • New jobs: Around 1,500 jobs during construction and 2,200 long-term jobs during operation of the terminal
  • Reduced congestion: A reduction of over 60,000km travelled by import/export freight trucks in Sydney each day. Intersection upgrades will address extra truck traffic in Moorebank and surrounding suburbs.

However, the terminal will have an impact in the immediate vicinity of the site, particularly in relation to traffic, noise and visual impacts. Although these impacts will be mitigated so that they comply with environmental planning and protection legislation, and other relevant guidelines, The Moorebank Intermodal Company (MIC), the government entity established to facilitate the terminal, determined to provide an additional avenue for the local community to identify community benefits that the terminal could fund.

Engagement brief:  Community engagement had been undertaken over a number of years as the proposal was developed.  However, the low level of community engagement about the terminal from the majority of the local community, and the fact that those who were engaged were focussed on opposing the terminal and not open to considering public benefits, meant that another mechanism was required to ensure the community could input to any decisions MIC made about community benefits.

The newDemocracy Foundation, which champions citizens’ juries as alternative methods of community decision-making,  approached MIC to suggest that a citizens’ jury, which would allow ordinary local community members to decide a package of measures to benefit people living near the terminal, would be the most effective mechanism to involve the community in making this decision.

A citizen’s jury is a group of everyday citizens, chosen at random and who largely mirror the target population (in this case, Liverpool local government area) who meet several times to consider a question (or ‘charge’) and make recommendations.  They are provided with access to accurate and unbiased information.  As a group, and acting on behalf of the wider community that they represent, the jury then deliberates and comes to decisions or recommendations.  It is the jury’s ability act on behalf of the greater good, as opposed to individual agendas, that is one of the things that sets the citizen jury process apart.

Straight Talk was engagement to design and facilitate the citizen’s jury process.

Description of engagement: The jury was charged with identifying what kind of public benefits would be best for the local community. To form the jury half of the participants were drawn from people living within a five kilometre radius, and half from within a 10 kilometre radius of the planned terminal. Newdemocracy Foundation managed the selection process of jurors, at arms length from both MIC and Straight Talk.

The objectives of Straight Talk’s design and facilitation of the jury process were to:

  • Ensure the jury decided who they needed to hear from and what information they needed to have in order to be able to meet their charge
  • Provide the jury with the skills and capabilities they needed to function effectively and appropriately as a team, such as critical thinking and consensus building skills
  • Guide the jury through the early stages of the jury process, while modelling appropriate inclusive behaviour, so that jury members were able to progressively ‘own’ the process and self-facilitate.

MIC’s commitment to the jury was that it would implement whatever recommendations the jury made provided they were implementable (e.g. they are consistent with relevant government policies and MIC’s legal obligations). It was also made clear to the jury that their recommendations would only be carried out once the project received all necessary government approvals.

The jury was very culturally and linguistically diverse, and there were significant issues with literacy and participation, with some cultural mores mitigating against the concepts of argument and debate.  Straight Talk needed to design processes that:

  • Allowed the participants to understand the highly technical aspects of the proposal and its impacts and importantly, how these would be addressed within the planning process
  • Supported the group to understand the notions of deliberation – weighing things up – and working as a representative group
  • Helped create consensus without leading or directing the jury in a particular direction.

We were able to create a range of activities that were fun, engaging, not text based yet allowed the jury to take full ownership of the issues.  Throughout the process Straight Talk emphasised our role as facilitators, that we were there to create a process that the jurors themselves would ultimately own and, at the last meeting, this came to fruition with the jury taking over the process to work together and create their recommendations – the most resounding evidence of success!

At the close of the process the majority of jury members strongly agreed that: the jury worked for the common good and represented the interests of the wider community; the level of consensus reached on the recommendations felt robust; and the jury process will achieve valuable outcomes for the community.

Never before has a group of everyday citizens been given the opportunity to decide on a package of measures to benefit their community and no other process would have been able to get beyond the ‘loud and articulate’ to ensure everyday citizens could contribute to lasting benefits for their local community.

Testimonial: Mr Iain Walker, Executive Director of newDemocracy Foundation indicated that he was extremely satisfied with the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal Citizens’ Jury:

“Building a major piece of infrastructure is rarely popular with those immediately adjacent to it, and the catchment area of community members was known to have a very broad range of linguistic, educational and cultural backgrounds – I think we had 17 different cultural backgrounds for the 18 people in the room! Straight Talk were able to get them to bond and work together as a coherent group rather than as a mix of individuals with independent interests. Finding a shared sense of community enabled them to work out what they could agree was a fair outcome. That jury have publicly owned the recommendations – which are simultaneously insightful and controversial because they depart from the simple media back and forth on the topic. To achieve this, the key variable is very experienced facilitators.”

Infrastructure Highly Commended

nicola iap2

Senior Consultant Nicola Wass receiving the Highly Commended (Infrastructure) Award at the 2015 IAP2 Core Values Awards.