Community consultations in urban stormwater management

Peter Dillon, Ron Bellchambers, Wayne Meyer, and Rod Ellis’s recent publication illustrates two successive but sharply contrasting community consultation initiatives for an urban storm water management plan for Brown Hill Creek, South Australia. The article, Community Perspective on Consultation on Urban Stormwater Management: Lessons from Brownhill Creek, South Australiawhich appeared in the journal Waterprovides an analytical account of community consultation efforts toward a water management plan and is informed by the perspective of a participating community environmental and heritage conservation group. 

The project is a collaboration between Adelaide, Burnside, Mitcham, Unley, and West Torrens councils. Drawing on the participatory experiences of the Brownhill Creek Association, the plan was conceived to reduce vulnerability to flood events within the catchment and is now operationalized in the Brown Hill Keswick Creek Stormwater Project.  The article provides an institutional and geographic background to the case, describes the consultation domains involved, and analyses the local political processes that played a role in the progress and outcome of the consultations.  

The draft plan presented to community members at the first public consultation was met with dissenting feedback, as the options presented to the residents were effectively limited to either constructing a dam or risking floods. Residents were compelled to form an action group against the dam on environmental grounds, and further, stall decision-making on the plan. The second consultation engaged more effectively with local stakeholders, including those with opposing or varying stances, to generate a publicly supported, viable, environmentally sound alternative that not only met the objectives of the project, but also saved public money.

Dillon et al. note that the second consultation was benefited by improved process rigor and – significantly – openness in dealing with all affected stakeholders so that community members could feel assured that their concerns had been taken into account. The research locates the consultations on the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum, and offers a number of important takeaways for practitioners involved with new water management projects.   

Photo:Michael Coghlan/

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