Community engagement and support

Community engagement is valued for the important information and perspectives it generates, which can lead to better decisions and outcomes. The Directorate engages with the community and stakeholders during policy development, program delivery and regulatory functions across the Directorate.

While some community engagement is mandated in legislation, such as variations to the Territory Plan, other engagement is best-practice process that captures the community’s perspective, contributes to decision making, and builds partnerships for working with the community. The Directorate also holds targeted consultation with technical experts, advisory panels, industry and/or other stakeholders as relevant.

Wherever possible, consultation activities follow the ACT Government’s policies and guidelines on community engagement, including six week consultation periods. A range of media is used to publicise the consultations, including: media releases; the ACT Government’s Community Noticeboard column in The Saturday Canberra Times; advertising in The Chronicle; posting on the Government’s Time to Talk website and the Directorate’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. For localised consultations
such as master plans, postcards or newsletters are letterbox-dropped to the surrounding suburbs and public drop-in sessions or meetings held including meetings with the relevant community council or residents’ association.

A focus for engagement in 2013–14 was to make officers more available to the public to explain plans and discuss issues. For example, the draft City Plan had staffed displays in Garema Place and the Canberra Centre to attract passers-by and other master plans were displayed at the centres they pertained to. Where appropriate, other ACT Government directorates were invited to attend consultations to answer related questions relevant to their area; for example, Roads ACT.

Feedback was encouraged in a number of ways, including online and paper feedback forms, surveys and/or general email and mail correspondence. For major engagements, consultation reports were prepared for the Minister and placed on the Directorate’s website.

A number of approaches were used to engage and work with community groups and volunteers in delivering programs, particularly to protect or enhance the natural environment. The Directorate held numerous activities such as working bees and workshops and has staff dedicated to facilitating community engagement on Aboriginal natural resource management and land care. Volunteers also made a significant contribution to conservation research, for example their involvement in species surveys.

The Directorate holds a regular Planning and Development Forum for community councils, industry groups and professional associations. The forum is used as a key consultation mechanism for activities across the Directorate.

Community engagement at the Cooleman Court on the draft Weston Group Centre Master Plan.
Community engagement at the Cooleman Court on the draft Weston Group Centre Master Plan.

Master plans

Consultation on the draft City Plan was held in October and November of 2013 and generated approximately 7000 interactions. Consultation included ‘open house’ sessions at Garema Place and the Canberra Centre and workshops with key stakeholders and community groups as well as online and paper feedback forms. Consultation targeted lessees in the City and surrounding suburbs, users of City services, businesses, interest groups and peak bodies, the broader Canberra and region community, and visitors to the City. The open house sessions included information on City to the Lake and Capital Metro. The final City Plan was released in March 2014.

Engagement on the Pialligo Master Plan continued, with the draft master plan released in July 2013. Consultation focussed on engaging the residents, with meetings held with the Pialligo Residents Association and Pialligo lessees and drop-in sessions held for the wider community. The final master plan was released in November 2013.

Community engagement continued on the Weston Group Centre Master Plan. Following previous engagement with stakeholders, lessees and the public that set a vision for the centre and identified the issues and opportunities, individual meetings were held with owners of Cooleman Court, the Presbyterian Church and Government directorates to further explore retail expansion, renewal of community facilities and a site for a new petrol station. The draft master plan was released in June 2014. Consultation was advertised through the media and 20,000 information flyers were distributed to every household in Weston Creek and all lessees at the centre. Exhibitions of the draft master plan were held at Cooleman Court and Woden Library, and two ‘meet the planners’ sessions were held at Cooleman Court in June and July. The Stakeholder Reference Group also met. Consultation is open until August 2014.

Engagement continued for the Oaks Estate Master Plan. A newsletter published in December 2013 updated all 280 residents and lessees on the outcomes of the heritage assessment for Oaks Estate and the planning process. Meetings were held with individual stakeholders to seek their input to the draft master plan and to update them on the planning process. Consultation on the draft master plan was started in June 2014; all residences and lessees were given a covering flyer advertising the two ‘meet the planner’ sessions and how to comment. Fifteen feedback forms and responses were received to the end of the year, with consultation open until August 2014. A meeting was also held with the public housing tenants through St Vincent de Paul.

Engagement began on the Woden Town Centre Master Plan and Mawson Group Centre Master Plan with the release of a discussion paper in February 2014. In the early stages of the master planning process the two centres are being considered together so that a wide range of strategic planning issues and the relationships between the two centres can be better understood. A separate master plan will be prepared for each centre because each centre has its own community interests, characteristics and challenges. All 25,000 residences in surrounding suburbs received information about the proposed master plan process and how to access and comment on the discussion paper. Poster displays were
set up in the centres and Woden Library to generate discussion and feedback. Separate meetings were also held with stakeholders, including the Woden Valley Community Council and lessees and traders.
‘Meet the planner’ sessions attracted 139 and 175 people respectively for Woden and Mawson.
Eight individual submissions and 166 feedback forms were received for Woden while six submissions and 126 feedback forms were received for Mawson.

Initial engagement began on the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, with presentations to the Belconnen Community Council in February and April 2014 and to the LDA Design Review Panel.
The meetings were an opportunity to advise the groups about the scope of work and the preliminary issues that had been identified.

Initial engagement began on the Tharwa Rural Village Master Plan, with meetings held with local community members and rural lessees to introduce the master plan process and discuss key issues
for the village, including infrastructure issues.

ACT/NSW Land Use and Infrastructure Framework

Under the ACT/NSW Memorandum of Understanding for Regional Collaboration, the Directorate held regular discussions with the NSW Government and the six local councils of Queanbeyan City, Yass Valley, Palerang, Goulburn-Mulwaree, Upper Lachlan and Cooma-Monaro. These discussions informed the drafting of the ACT/NSW Land Use and Infrastructure Framework.

Molonglo Valley – Commercial Centre and Environs

The Molonglo Commercial Centre and Environs Concept Plan and its associated directions paper will guide development at the main centre for the new Molonglo Valley development. Although the plan will be introduced to the Territory Plan via a technical amendment, which has minimal mandated engagement, the size of the project and its public importance led to the decision to have full community engagement throughout the development of the plan.

The plan and directions paper were guided by a Community and Industry Reference Group comprising 16 member groups representing community and industry, an advisory panel of eminent urban planners, designers and architects that provided informal peer review, and a working group comprising representatives of relevant ACT Government directorates. The Territory Plan variation will be progressed through 2014–15.

ACT Heritage Council decisions

As part of their functions, the Heritage Council decides whether to heritage list objects and places of heritage significance. Community consultation is a statutory obligation under the Heritage Act 2004, with notifications about provisional and final decisions placed in The Canberra Times. For all registration decisions, the Heritage Council consults the planning and land authority, Conservator for Flora and Fauna, National Capital Authority, the site owner, occupier, lessee or sublessee, the architect or designer of the site/object and the person who nominated the site/object. In addition, the Council consults with Representative Aboriginal Organisations (RAO) ahead of reaching a decision about registration for Aboriginal places and objects.

The Council decided to fully register the Glenloch Cork Oak Plantation, Molonglo Valley (no public submissions were received) and the St Andrew’s Church Precinct, Forrest (one public submission received). The Council consulted with the Minister and was awaiting the Minister’s response before proceeding to make final decisions in regard to the Hibernian Hotel Site at Kowen (no public submissions were received), Crinigan’s Hut Artefact Collection (two public submissions) and the Shakespeare Hall, formerly St Columba’s Presbyterian Church Hall, at Braddon (one public submission).

Consultation closed on 25 June 2014 for the Havelock House in Turner. No public submissions were received. The Council will finalise its decision on registration in 2014–15.

The Council decided not to provisionally register the following:

In relation to development advice for Aboriginal archaeological sites and objects, consultation was held with the relevant RAOs on an as-needs basis and included on-site visits as required. Advice received from RAOs on archaeological field projects and written heritage management reports was incorporated into heritage management recommendations. RAO involvement included onsite inspections, material salvage and sub-surface excavations of Aboriginal heritage sites.

As part of the Enlarged Cotter Dam Artefact Repatriation project, artefacts were repatriated to the dam site in consultation with RAOs.

Following consultation with the RAOs, the Council approved development works at the Royalla Solar Farm and Majura Valley Solar Farm. ACT Heritage ensured there was appropriate management of significant cultural sites during
fire management activities at Stirling Ridge.

The RAOs’ views and concerns were accommodated in cultural heritage assessment and monitoring works which took place in 2013, including the Molonglo River Corridor Heritage Surveys, the Pialligo South Heritage Surveys and the Stromlo Forest Park Heritage Surveys.
At Stromlo Forest Park, actions were taken by ACT Heritage to prevent site disturbance from adjacent infrastructure works.

St Andrews Chruch Precinct, Forrest
St Andrews Chruch Precinct, Forrest was added to the Heritage Register


Many activities were undertaken at the Dickson Wetland. The Dickson Wetland Carers held two working bees – one to remove rubbish and weeds at the wetland (31 August 2013) and the other to plant grasses and install tree guards (23 November 2013). A sub-committee of Dickson Wetland Carers produced Common Birds of Constructed Wetlands, an educational brochure available in hard copy and online for schools and the community. The Wetlands Team gave a presentation and tour of the wetland to Year 12 students at Canberra Grammar School in October 2013, which enhanced their understanding of the value of constructed wetlands.

The Lyneham Wetland Carers held a community planting day (2 May 2014) at the Lyneham Wetland to plant grasses, shrubs and groundcovers.

The Banksia Street Wetland Carers held a working bee (1 December 2013) at the Banksia Street Wetland to weed and remove weeds to green waste. The Directorate Wetlands Team and the University of Canberra held a Haiku (Japanese poetry) workshop for 20 participants, which enhanced understanding of the value of constructed wetlands and was an opportunity for a creative response to the wetlands (5 April 2014).

The Gungahlin College Green Team contributed to the October Frogwatch Survey at The Valley Ponds, Gungahlin, which enhanced the team’s ability to identify frogs in local waterways and assisted with the survey.

To help students and others understand the value of water bugs and wetlands, the Wetlands Team:

Dickson Wetlands
Dickson Wetlands

Territory Plan amendments

As part of its statutory obligations under the P&D Act, the Directorate notified eight draft variations and five technical amendments during the year. For draft variations, the six week consultation period is accompanied by advertisements, website and social media information and, where appropriate, letters to those potentially affected by the variation in the surrounding suburbs and onsite signs.

Consultation on Variation 314 Kingston Group Centre Precinct Code (28 June – 26 Aug 2013) to implement the Kingston Centre Master Plan also included letters to lessees and nearby residents and posters on site. Over 20 people attended a ‘meet the planner’ drop-in session on site, and 27 submissions were received. The variation commenced 30 May 2014.

Consultation on Variation 318 – Tuggeranong Town Centre Master Plan Implementation
(13 Dec 2013 – 17 Feb 2014) also included 1100 letters to lessees and nearby residents. About 75 people attended a ‘meet the planner’ drop-in session on site, and 30 attended a presentation to the community council. Thirteen submissions were received. The Minister approved the variation on 5 June 2014.

Consultation on Draft Variation 320 – Erindale Group Centre Master Plan Implementation
(2 May – 13 June 2014) also included 1100 letters to lessees and nearby residents and a ‘meet the planner’ drop-in session on site which attracted significant interest. Twelve submissions were received during the consultation period. The variation will be finalised in due course.

Consultation on Draft Variation 321 – Pialligo Master Plan Implementation (2 May – 13 June 2014) also included letters to lessees and nearby residents and a ‘meet the planner’ drop-in session on site, attended by one person. Consultation closed on 13 June 2014, with four submissions received.

Variation 324 Pialligo – rezoning from broadacre to industrial IZ2 was introduced to facilitate development on a block near the airport (18 Oct – 29 Nov 2013). Consultation also included meetings with adjoining lessees and the local community. Eleven submissions were received and the variation commenced on 4 April 2014.

Consultation on Draft Variation 325 –Woden Bus Layover (11 April – 28 May 2014) also included letters to adjoining lessees and onsite signs. One submission was received and the variation is anticipated to be finalised in late 2014.

Consultation on Draft Variation 309 –Turner Bus Layover (11 April – 28 May 2014) also included 435 letters to adjoining lessees and businesses and onsite signs. Forty-six submissions were received and the variation is anticipated to be finalised in late 2014.

Five submissions were received during consultation on Variation 326 – Chisholm rezoning from commercial to urban open space to formalise the Chisholm Park, subsequently named the Caroline Chisholm Park (13 Dec 2013 – 17 Jan 2014). The final variation commenced on 30 May 2014.

Technical amendments have a shorter notification time and were usually notified only on the Directorate’s website and in The Canberra Times. The following amendments requiring limited consultation were made:


Energy efficiency information for tenants

A discussion paper to gauge interest in making energy efficiency information available to tenants was accompanied by an online survey. The consultation was publicised through the Time to Talk website and the Directorate’s Facebook, Twitter and stakeholder networks. A stakeholder forum was held and one-on-one meetings held with peak stakeholder bodies including landlords, tenants, real-estate agents, energy assessors, community service organisations and other Government directorates. Tenants were engaged through the online survey. Information gained through the engagement and 140 survey responses will inform the Government’s response to improve energy efficiency information available for tenants.

Large-scale renewable energy

A Wind Auction Industry briefing held at the Canberra Convention Centre on 8 May 2014 was attended by 50 industry representatives interested in participating in the wind auction. Participants were familiarised with the auction and key questions were answered about the wind auction process, with some follow-up action undertaken.

The Minister contacted local council mayors whose regions may be targeted for new wind farm development under the ACT Wind Auction. To 30 June, two councils had sought further information
on the auction process.

A review of the solar auction process, conducted under the Electricity Feed-in (Large-scale Renewable Energy Generation) Act 2011, included an online survey and targeted interviews. All solar auction proponents were invited to complete an online survey, interviews were held with representatives of industry, expert technical and financial consultants, Advisory Panel members and Government agencies. About 30 people were consulted and the results informed development of future renewable auctions as well as amendments to the Electricity Feed-in (Large-scale Renewable Energy Generation) Act 2011 enacted in March 2014.

Climate change

A phone survey of 1200 ACT residents on community attitudes on climate change issues was undertaken during September 2013. Survey findings indicated a very high level of awareness, across all demographics, of climate change issues and overall support for action both at the personal level
and through Government leadership. Survey results are available on the Directorate’s website.

Following the survey, a workshop was held for selected representatives of community, business, environmental and other ACT organisations. Participants were divided into small groups and asked to brainstorm responses to a set of key questions. Participants also shared their experience of community engagement in Canberra and ideas for more effective local engagement on climate change. The workshop and survey outcomes have contributed to the development of the Community Engagement Strategy on Climate Change associated with Action 5 of AP2.

Nature Conservation Bill

The Nature Conservation Bill 2013 opened for exposure draft consultation on 31 October 2013 with submissions accepted until 8 January 2014. Seven submissions were received. A roundtable discussion with 28 key stakeholders was held on 14 April 2014, chaired by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. Submissions and the report from the roundtable informed development of the Bill, which is proposed to be presented to the Legislative Assembly in 2014.

Environmental offsets

The Commonwealth and ACT governments are committed to delivering a ‘one-stop-shop’ for environmental approvals under the EPBC Act. The one-stop-shop will maintain high environmental standards while simplifying approval processes, thereby promoting a stronger economy.

An environmental offsets policy is required by the Australian Government to implement the one-stop-shop. Consultation on an environmental offsets policy commenced on 19 June 2014 and was finalised on 11 July 2014. Presentations by Directorate staff were provided at the following public forums:

Twenty submissions were received from individuals, groups and organisations and are being considered by the ACT Government in finalising the ACT environmental offsets policy.

Draft ACT Water Strategy – Striking the Balance

Consultation on the draft water strategy, including public forums to discuss the strategy, was advertised in a range of media including The Canberra Times, Chronicle, Time to Talk and Directorate websites and social media. Information included the draft strategy and explanatory fact sheets. Presentations were made to industry associations and the Planning and Development Forum. A range of stakeholders including community, industry and academia were consulted, with 100 people attending the forums and over 500 hits on the websites. The draft strategy was amended to address issues raised by stakeholders.

Review of Water Sensitive Urban Design

A review of Water Sensitive Urban Design in the ACT included consultation on an issues paper and a workshop. The consultation was advertised in a range of media including The Canberra Times, Chronicle, Time to Talk and Directorate websites and social media. Consultation included a survey of stakeholders who had submitted development or building applications in the previous three years.
Of 4000 emailed surveys, approximately 300 were returned. A presentation was made to the Planning and Development Forum. A technical panel, established to inform the review, gave valuable input to the review. The review will be finalised in July 2014.

Water Resource Plan

Preliminary consultation on the ACT Water Resource Plan included targeted consultation.
One workshop was held with academics and focussed on risk assessment; another, organised though
the Directorate’s Indigenous facilitator, was held with Indigenous representatives and focused on Indigenous values of water. The consultation informed development of the plan.

Natural Resource Management Programs

ACT Regional Delivery 2013–2018 (formerly Caring for our Country Program)

The NRM Programs section has worked with four main community partners to deliver the first year of ACT Regional Delivery Program. Partners include the Southern ACT, Molonglo and Ginninderra catchment groups, and Greening Australia Capital Region. Community partners are contracted to deliver a diverse program of work to improve environmental and agricultural outcomes in the ACT, such as through revegetation and weed control, and community engagement and capacity building. Community partners deliver activities in collaboration with wider networks of Parkcare, Landcare, Waterwatch and Frogwatch groups, as well as engaging other volunteers such as public and corporate groups in tree planting events.


The ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator program supports the development of a skilled and capable Landcare community in the ACT. Community engagement highlights include:

ACT Rural Grants

The Government is running a $450,000 grants project supporting ACT rural landholders to implement innovative sustainable farming practices to improve soil and pasture health, increase ground cover and prepare for drought. Funding for the project is being provided under the Australian Government’s Sustainable Agriculture Stream. The ACT Rural Grants project was developed following extensive consultation with ACT rural landholders – Directorate staff sought feedback on the grants at two regular meetings of the ACT Rural Landholders Association. The grants program is being run in three tranches, with the first commencing in 2014. The first round of funding was announced on 2 April 2014 with rural landholders given six weeks to submit applications. More than 20 ACT rural landholders attended an information session held on 28 April. The first round of successful grants will be devolved in 2014–15.

Aboriginal Natural Resource Management

The ACT Aboriginal NRM Facilitator promotes engagement of Aboriginal people in Landcare and
Caring for Country and promotes reconciliation through raising awareness of Indigenous culture and traditional knowledge.
An Aboriginal Heritage Workshop, held in November 2013, was delivered to ACT Parks and Conservation Service employees, rural land owners, and local Landcare and Parkcare groups. Participants learnt how to identify common artefacts and the procedures for protecting these
objects and sites under the ACT Heritage Act 2004.

The Directorate contributing to Reconciliation Planting Day at the the Cultural Centre, Yarramundi Reach
The Directorate contributed to Reconciliation Planting Day at the the Cultural Centre, Yarramundi Reach.

NRM Planning for Climate Change Project

Community engagement through the ACT NRM Planning for Climate Change Project has focused on building capacity in spatial planning. A tutorial in ArcGIS, a geographic information system for working with maps and geographic information, was developed for a training workshop delivered at the Canberra Institute of Technology for community stakeholders on 2 May 2014. Following the training, local catchment groups were provided with NRM planning data layers to help guide project reporting, which has clearly increased GIS skills and comfort levels in mapping.

Conservation research

Volunteers and citizen science make an important contribution to the monitoring of native species in the ACT. Conservation research provides support to Frogwatch, an annual community frog-monitoring program, and utilises volunteers in counting Grey-headed Flying Fox and kangaroos.

The Conservation Planning and Research Unit held its annual seminar ‘EcoFocus’ to communicate research results, including collaborations with the Australian National Botanic Gardens and University of Canberra. Over 100 people from Government and community attended the August 2013 seminar that covered a range of topics including vegetation mapping, small mammal surveys, post-fire recovery, and fish management.

Regulation and services

Building Act Review

Ongoing meetings were held with the Building Act Review Reference Group established by the Directorate for the review. The reference group includes 10 representatives from industry associations, the training and education sector, community and property owners and managers. The group’s advice contributed to ongoing engagement on reforms to the building and construction regulatory system.

Construction design and inspection practitioners’ reforms

Public consultation on reforms to the requirements for construction design and inspection practitioners ran from December 2013 to mid-March 2014. Consultation included three public forums, a community forum of residential owners, acceptance of written submissions and an online survey. Consultation was open to all industry and community members. Targeted consultation with affected industry members and associations was held in June 2014. Twenty written submissions and approximately 35 surveys were received during the consultation and are being considered in the development of final policy recommendations.

Sustainability programs

Through the suite of ACTSmart Business Programs, 870 businesses and government agencies across the ACT and Queanbeyan and their 37,000 staff are educated on waste, water and energy efficiency opportunities in their workplace. This engagement leads to a reduction in water, waste and energy use from business clients resulting in savings to operational costs and GHG savings.

As part of the engagement process, the Directorate held the Annual ACTSmart Business Sustainability Awards in June 2014 and the ACTSmart Business Sustainability Expo in November 2013. These events directly engage businesses and industries in sustainability.

The ACTSmart Public Event program worked with 51 event organisers to set up efficient waste management and recycling at events that attracted over 946,250 visitors. Events included large events such as the National Multicultural Festival, Canberra Show and smaller fetes and festivals and resulted in significant reductions of waste to landfill with recycling including organic recycling sent for reprocessing.

Through ACTSmart for your Community the ACT Government funded three environmental community organisations that assist member groups and residents achieve sustainability outcomes. The Canberra and Southeast Region Environment Centre, the Conservation Council ACT Region and SEE-Change attend quarterly meetings to collaborate on outcomes.

The Outreach Program collaborates with the community sector to engage low income households in improving the energy and water efficiency of their homes by providing home energy and water assessments, education, retrofits, and appliances. Over 30 community organisations work with low income households.

ACTSmart for your Household has an ongoing program of community activities for householders that are delivered in consultation with key stakeholders to encourage residential energy conservation. Stakeholders include 15 environment groups, community councils, ActewAGL and ACT libraries.

ACTSmart Schools provides services and advice to all ACT schools on the management of energy, water, waste and school grounds and the integration of sustainability into the curriculum. Engagement with schools is through workshops (teachers, facilities managers and senior students), newsletters, interactive displays and school visits. The program is available to all ACT schools and their 70,500 students (public and non-government schools) with five workshops delivered to 180 school representatives in 2013–14.

ACTSmart Schools facilitates the knowledge, skills and understandings that build the capacity of the school community to actively participate in creating a sustainable ACT. Furthermore, students and staff take environmental messages home.

Waterwatch works with three catchment groups to train and support volunteers. The three groups, Molonglo Catchment Group, Ginninderra Catchment Group and Southern ACT Catchment Group, work with 160 volunteers. The outcome is an effective volunteer monitoring network for water quality and catchment health.

Further information can be obtained from:
Mayumi Smith
Manager, Communications
Telephone: 02 6205 3146