In 2015, Noosa council, in Queensland, Australia, convened a community jury on the management of the Noosa River. This was the second jury conducted in Noosa and formed part of a trial for the council in order to improve the council's community engagement.
Problems and Purpose
Noosa is a town and suburb on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. In 2013 Noosa council de-amalgamated from Sunshine Coast authorities and made a commitment to give more decision-making power to the local community. As part of this commitment, the council trialed two community juries to consider complex local issues.
The council held two community juries in 2015, the second of which was convened to consider the questions:
How can we manage the Noosa River better?
What role should Council play and what resources should Council apply?
Background History and Context
The Noosa River is an important resource to the local area in terms of tourism, fishing and recreation and makes a substantial contribution to the local economy. However, community concerns over abandoned vessels and pollution led the council to explore alternative options for managing how the river is used, especially in the busiest sections. Most abandoned vessels are in the busiest part of the river and are a hazard at night. The council was also interested in how commercial jetty leases are handled and other commercial activities, which are currently under state government control .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The jury was convened and funded by Noosa council. It was organized and managed by newDemocracy Foundation, an independent research organization, and facilitated by an independent professional facilitator.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
newDemocracy Foundation, an independent research organisation, recruited participants for the jury from a random draw of 3,000 residents. nDF then selected a jury of 24 to make a stratified sample representative of gender and age range in the community.
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.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The jury met over a period of around six months. During that time, it followed a citizens' jury format, with jurors hearing from range of experts on the matters at hand. The wider community was also invited to make submissions to the jury for consideration. Alongside the jury, Noosa Council ran online forums for wider community engagement. The jury also took a ferry ride on the Noosa River to see the issues first hand.
The jury reached consensus on 12 recommendations. A further proposition - regarding whether the local council should take over river management from state - was supported by 18 and rejected by 6 jurors. It was decided by the jury to include their views on this in the final report.
The river management jury's final report outlines 12 recommendations agreed by consensus:
- review and update the Noosa River Plan and have it ratified
- monitor waste removal and disposal
- establish a duty of care for cultural heritage sites and engage with indigenous communities
- implement a park ranger type role on the river
- maintain river catchment protections
- review mooring and anchoring fees
- establish a Noosa River Coordinate Committee with an independent expert to chair
- establish legal authority to remove abandoned, unauthorized or derelict vessels
- review mooring and anchoring locations and consider environmental factors in deciding new ones
- implement lighting and beacons to address safety concerns
- decide a cap on how long people can stay living on board and ensure that those who do comply with guidelines
One recommendation was supported 18-16:
- Noosa Council should take over authority from state government for the moorings, anchoring, recreational and commercials uses of the river with a user pays system to avoid raising rates.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
In January 2016, the council voted to adopt the 12 recommendations agreed on by consensus. There were some concerns over the recommendation that council take over authority from state for management of the river. A local news report stated that the council decided to 'take note' of this recommendation and, as with the waste management jury, workshop the recommendation with council staff and state agencies. In March 2016 the council's website confirmed that letters had been sent to the relevant state authorities to begin the transfer of agreed responsibilities from state to Noosa Council.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Noosa Council (2015) Community Jury - Management of the Noosa River. Available at: https://yoursay.noosa.qld.gov.au/community-jury-management-of-the-noosa-river