Across 5 sessions from May to June 2019, the 30-35 members of the Sunbury's Water Future community panel deliberated topics and solutions surrounding future water management. These included recycled water and stormwater, catchments and waterways, climate change, and urban growth.
Problems and Purpose
Sunbury is a growing city, with its population expected to double in the next 20 years. To meet the challenge this would pose for water supply and management, and to develop and Integrated Water Management plan, Western Water (WW) and Melbourne Water (MW) sought to engage with the community to hear from Sunbury about how to combat the issue. This involved two phases. The first involved wide community engagement through a survey and face-to-face community discussions. This led to the development of a Wider Engagement (Phase 1) report , which was used to inform the second phase. The second phase involved deliberation through a community panel. The panel was tasked with providing WW and MW a range of recommendations for how to meet this need .
Background History and Context
As Sunbury is a growing city that is expecting large population growth, the city is facing challenges with how best to meet increased water supply and management. To develop and Integrated Water Management Plan, Western Water and Melbourne Water undertook two phases of community engagement to hear from the community and incorporate their recommendations into the plan.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Western Water (now Greater Western Water)
Participant Recruitment and Selection
35 panellists were recruited through random stratified sampling. This was done by Nivek Thompson of Deliberately Engaging. Panellists were randomly selected to represent the population, and varied in age, abilities, culturally, linguistically and home ownership. Due to the odd number of participants, there were 18 male and 17 female panellists.
Methods and Tools Used
Q and A sessions
Rapid rotations - experts went round to the smaller groups and spoke with them for 10 minutes before moving on to the next group.
Super majoritarian voting for final recommendations
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The panel had two guiding principles for developing their recommendations:
- "Climate change is a fact and as such will impact rainfall and other climate events in the Sunbury region,
- The costings of recommendations were not to limit panellists' thinking" 
Using a set of criteria the panel established themselves, they came up with nine recommendations (plus three minority recommendations). These criteria and recommendations can be viewed in the panel's report .
The panel met five Saturdays for full-day deliberations over two months.
During deliberation, participants split off into smaller groups to discuss issues before coming together in a big group again.
While not happening during this deliberation process, young people were also consulted at the KidX Youth Forum about Sunbury's water future a few months before.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Western Water and Melbourne Water committed to reviewing the panel's recommendations and getting back to them within three month's of the report's submission. They also committed to continuing to engage with the community in future around water management.
Both water companies endorsed the panel's nine recommendations and they are being used to develop options for the Integrated Water Management (IWM) plan .
A response report was released in September 2019 by Western Water (WW) and Melbourne Water (MW). The report notes that WW and MW commit to providing annual updates on progress to community panel members and outlines a community engagement roadmap from September 2018 to beyond 2024 . The response report also outlines how WW and MW understood each recommendation (including minority recommendations), any challenges to its implementation and what they will do about it.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Melbourne Water's YourSay page has video summaries of each of the five days of deliberation.
 Melbourne Water, Sunbury's Water Future, Community Engagement, available at: https://yoursay.melbournewater.com.au/Sunburys-Water-Future/community-engagement
 Sunbury's Water Future Community Panel Panel Report (2019) [pdf], available at: https://www.westernwater.com.au/assets/volumes/general-downloads/sunburys-water-future-community-panel-report.pdf
 Western Water & Melbourne Water (2019, Sunbury's Water Future: Response to the Community Panel's recommendations, available at: https://hdp-au-prod-app-mw-yoursay-files.s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/9715/7170/3215/01-263_Sunburys_Water_Future_Response_FINAL.pdf
Data was sourced from OECD (2020), Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions: Catching the Deliberative Wave, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/339306da-en.