An organization set up by the Australian government to oversee development of a new freight terminal in Moorebank, a Sydney suburb, established a $1 million 'local benefits fund' for the community and convened a Citizens' Jury of 18 local residents to decide how best to spend it.
Problems and Purpose
Moorebank Intermodal Company (MIC) was set up to oversee the development of a new intermodal freight terminal in Moorebank, in Sydney's southwest. The proposed 'freight precinct' will facilitate the movement of freight by rail, provide access to ports and handle shipping containers. Opposition to the terminal, which will begin construction in 2016, has been somewhat vociferous with controversy surrounding the supposed negative impact on the local community.
MIC launched a citizens' jury, run by independent research organisation newDemocracy Foundation, to enable the local everyday citizens to decide how to deliver a direct benefit for people living near the proposed intermodal terminal. The jury of 18 local residents met from July to September 2014.
In convening the jury, MIC recognised the possible negative impacts of the terminal to local residents, and sought to increase positive benefits through the local benefits fund.
Background History and Context
MIC is an Australian government owned business, working with private consortium Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance (SIMTA) in a public-private partnership to develop the Moorebank Intermodal terminal. The terminal is expected to boost the local economy and infrastructure, create employment and hugely reduce the amount of road freight in Australia.  However, the development is gigantic, spanning 240 hectares, and there have been significant community concerns about it especially relating to noise, pollution and traffic disruption.
Community engagement had taken place in previous years as the proposal was developed with SIMTA and MIC, but engagement had been low and most people who engaged with MIC were opposed to the terminal. Another, more effective and meaningful form of community engagement was required, especially to decide how the $1 million fund for local benefits should be spent. newDemocracy Foundation, an independent, non-partisan research organisation, then suggested to MIC that a citizens' jury format could be effective in this case.
nDF's project design for the jury states that
"the hypothesis of this project is that a jury of everyday people drawn from Sydney’s southwest is better placed to be trusted by all parties in identifying how to spend funding on a local benefits package so that everyone can live together. The challenge is therefore to have a conversation with the community which is not a protest against a project which will happen: it is simply an exercise in eliciting a considered view of what additional benefits can be delivered for the local community." 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The jury was funded by MIC and the process was managed by newDemocracy Foundation, an independent, nonprofit research organisation. Straight Talk, an independent communications consultancy specialising in community engagement activities, were recruited to design and facilitate the jury.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants were drawn from a random sample of 4,000 local residents, with half being drawn from within 5km of the terminal site and half from within a 10km radius. From this, a representative sample of the local community was drawn to comprise the final 18 jurors. nDF carried out the recruitment and selection process, independently from MIC and Straight Talk.
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative used a citizens' jury, broadly defined as a small group of randomly-selected individuals who come together to deliberate on an issue after hearing from experts in order to provide recommendations on future action for decision-makers.  The deliberative democratic process is intended to result in consensus.
The case also features participatory budgeting, an increasingly common method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Straight Talk, who designed and facilitated the jury, used a variety of techniques to enable the jury to deliberate on what kind of public benefits would be best for the local community. On their website they discuss their approach to deliberation in the jury process and specifically how they managed difficulties arising from linguistic and cultural barriers:
"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!"
The wider community were also encouraged to make submissions to the jury with their ideas for local benefits.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The jury produced three recommended projects which were accepted upfront by MIC - who had agreed beforehand to accept the jury's recommendations. The three projects were a social enterprise organisation; a scholarship and training program available to local residents; and a healthy living package incorporating public exercise stations and lifestyle education programs.
Construction of the terminal is at its earliest stages and it is not currently known how these projects have been taken forward at the time of writing (May 2016).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The project was highly commended in the 2015 International Association for Public Participation Awards.
Judging by local media, it is unclear whether the citizens' jury has had a positive impact on peoples' view of the terminal. Liverpool council (adjoining precinct) to the terminal still oppose the terminal construction entirely. However, this was not the objective of the jury, as nDF pointed out: "it is simply an exercise in eliciting a considered view of what additional benefits can be delivered for the local community." 
 ABC news (2015) Qube's Moorebank intermodal hub a major infrastructure boost [online], ABC news, available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-12/qube-moorebank-intermodal-hub-infr...
 newDemocracy (2014). Proposal for the Moorebank Intermodal: The View From the Wider Community. Retrieved from http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/docs/activeprojects/MoorebankIntermodal_newDemocracy%20Foundation_Project%20Concept_18June2014.pdf
newDemocracy Foundation (recruitment, selection, management): http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/ndf-work/184-moorebank-intermodal-citizen...
Lead Image: Moorebank Intermodal Terminal/Straight Talk https://goo.gl/2iNLoN