Noosa Community Juries

Noosa Community Juries


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 trialled two community juries to consider complex local issues.

The first Noosa community jury was convened in February 2015 and was tasked with deciding:

What is the best option for minimising organic waste sent to landfill?

The second Noosa Jury met for the first time in August 2015 and were asked to consider the following questions:

How can we manage the Noosa River better?

What role should Council play and what resources should Council apply?


Organic Waste Management

In an effort to decrease the amount of organic waste sent to landfill, a number of countries and Australian states now employ a 'three bin system' - one for inorganic rubbish, one for recyclable materials and one for 'green waste' (grass clippings, food waste etc). The three bin system reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill as it encourages recycling, and green waste is separated and does not go to landfill. In reality it's not perfect - plastic bags are the most common contaminant of recycling bins, and recyclable packaging often still gets thrown in with the general waste. Although this system was in place in parts of Noosa, it did not cover the whole area comprehensively. Furthermore, Noosa's current waste management practice was seen as lacking by the jury on several fronts. The local landfill site is responsible for 70% of the council's emissions, and has a lifespan of only 33 years. Establishing a new landfill site would be a considerable expense to the council, so if the amount of organic waste sent to landfill could be reduced, the lifespan of the existing site could be extended (Noosa Community Jury's Verdict 2015). 

Noosa River Management

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 (Noosa River Jury Background Information Pack 2015, p7). 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 (Noosa River Jury Background Information Pack).

Originating Entities and Funding

The Noosa community juries were convened and funded by Noosa council. The juries were organised and managed by newDemocracy Foundation, an independent research organisation, and facilitated by an independent professional facilitator.

Participant Selection

newDemocracy Foundation, an independent research organisation, recruited participants for the Noosa juries from a random draw of 3,000 residents. nDF then selected a jury of 24 and 24 for the first and second juries respectively to make a sample representative of gender and age range in the community. 

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

Both juries met monthly over a period of six months. During that time, the processes 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. The organic waste jury visited the local Eurmundi Road Waste Transfer Station to gain a better understanding of how waste management operates in Noosa. 

The first jury on organic waste management unanimously agreed on nine key recommendations, whereas the river management 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.

Alongside the community juries, Noosa Council also ran online forums for wider community engagement.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Organic Waste Management Jury

The organic waste management report was presented during a council meeting in August 2015 and its recommendations are summarised as follows:

  • expand three bin system
  • minimise cost to ratepayers for green and organic waste collection
  • move to fortnightly collection
  • construct a local composting facility
  • design and implement a long-term education campaign on reducing waste
  • reward good waste management 
  • monitor compliance with new waste management systems
  • ban non-biodegradable plastic bags by 2017
  • direct large producers to divert all their organic waste from landfill by 2030

The council adopted the jury's recommendations in principle and proposed two workshops to discuss costs and timing. Workshops were held in September and in December 2015 the council began the implementation of the jury's recommendations with the launch of a 'Towards Zero Waste' education campaign. As a result of the jury's recommendations, the council will provide all new homes with a green waste bin and are working towards making this a service for all coastal homes. The council decided to focus its efforts on increasing recycling uptake and deferred decision on rolling out a full food waste collection service (Noosa Council 2015).

River Management Jury

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, unauthorised or derelict vessels
  • review mooring and anchoring locations and consider environmental factors in deciding new ones
  • implement lighting and beacons to address saftey 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.

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

Noosa Council conducted an internal assessment of the community jury process, details of which are included in the report of their August 18th meeting (Noosa Council 2015, p107). They noted that the level of local media coverage had been good and feedback from the jurors themselves was overwhelmingly positive:

“I found it a most enjoyable and rewarding experience although a little frustrating and confusing along the way. The question itself was much more complex than I first anticipated, and I was very proud with the quality of our final report, and so grateful to that small band of co-jurors who so skilfully initiated that task. I would certainly commend the process for the future where appropriate.”

“I was amazed that 24 people from all walks of life could arrive at a sensible conclusion that would benefit future generations to come."

However, the council also perceived that the process could be more successful in future if council staff had greater involvement. This dissatisfaction can be attributed at least in part to the way in which the jury - and indeed any citizens jury - is run. newDemocracy Foundation, who organised the juries, ensures that the jury are free from pressure exerted by the council (or government, etc). This maintains the integrity of the jury so that they are not unduly influenced by the council. This also means the council cannot be accused of trying to orchestrate the process. Protecting jurors in this way also facilitates wider public trust in the process. However, Noosa Council received feedback that 'this model can be challenging to work with' (Noosa Council 2015, p110).

The council also reflected that a better job could have been done to engage the wider community with both the community panel process, and the issue of waste management. In future, they recommended that the public be further encouraged to attend jury sessions as observers and create more opportunities for the wider Noosa community to get involved. 

Overall, the council concluded that the first Noosa community jury had been a success, and that it had put Noosa Council on the map as an example of genuine collaboration with citizens. The council's internal evaluation can be found here, starting on p107.


Secondary Sources

Noosa Council (2015) Planning and Organisation Committee Agenda [online], Noosa Council, available at:

Noosa Council (2015), Noosa Jury River Management Information Pack [online], available at:

External Links

newDemocracy Foundation:

Noosa river management jury report:

Reports, video footage and documents used during the organic waste jury process can be found here:

Reports, video footage and documents used during the river management jury can be found here:

Case Data


Noosa Shire Council
9 Pelican Street
4565 Tewantin , QLD
26° 23' 32.892" S, 153° 2' 28.644" E
Queensland AU


What was the intended purpose?: 


Start Date: 
Friday, February 6, 2015
End Date: 
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
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Total Number of Participants: 
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If yes, were they ...: 
Other: Facilitation: 
facilitated by independent communication specialist
Facetoface, Online or Both: 
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Who paid for the project or initiative?: 
Noosa Council
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Total Budget: 
US$31 093.63
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