PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION-MAKING - NEW APPROACHES

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Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

1


PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION
-
MAKING
-

NEW APPROACHES
1


R F James

Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University and
CRC for Weed Management Systems

Email:

rfjame
s@cres.anu.edu.au


Paper presented at the National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, 1
-
3
December 1999


Abstract

Public participation
2

in the management of public lands in Australia is frequently
conducted by permitting comment on draf
t plans of management. This process often
leads to the presentation of conflicting and, at times, extreme views regarding the
objectives and methods of the proposed management regime and the proposed
allocation of land resources to competing uses. Explic
it processes for the resolution of
conflict rarely exist. A suite of methods, based on the principles of discursive and
deliberative democracy, offers the potential both for more informed and broadly based
public debate on such issues and for resolution o
f conflict. The recent application of
one such method in Australia, the citizens' jury, is discussed, and the potential of the
method for application to a wide range of natural resource allocation and management
issues is considered.


Introduction

In this

paper, the range of opportunities and methods used for public participation in
Australia will be briefly considered, followed by examination of methods in use in one
type of environmental management, the management of public lands set aside as
national pa
rks. Consideration is then given to the current method of public engagement
in national park management planning in New South Wales and an alternative method
proposed. The results of the recent application of this method to national park
management and to

non
-
market valuation of increased levels of park management in
New South Wales are then briefly discussed and the potential application of the method
to other environmental management issues considered.


Background

There are many legally established oppor
tunities for public participation in
environmental decision
-
making in Australia.
Taberner, Brunton
et al
. (1996)

noted that
there were, at the time of writing, some 320 statutes which dealt either principally or in
part with environmental
and planning matters in Australia. Whilst the authors did not
provide details of the extent of public participation possible or required under each
piece of legislation, they noted that an increasing role for public participation in such



1

The work reported in this

paper was conducted as part of the project on Citizens' Juries on
Environmental Management, funded by the Land and Water Resources Research and Development
Corporation. The Project Leader is Dr R K Blamey of the Research School of Social Sciences at the
Australian National University. To be placed on the project mailing list, write to Citizens' Jury Project,
UEP, RSSS, ANU, ACT 0200.

2

Public participation is used in this paper to mean the ' .... active involvement of people in making
decisions about
the implementation of processes, programmes and projects which affect them'.
(Slocum
and Thomas
-
Slatyer 1995)

Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

2


matters in Austra
lia was apparent. They categorised opportunities for public
participation as follows:

.

administration of the legislation;

.

policy formulation; and

.

participation in decisions.



To these modes of public participation can be added participation arising f
rom the
exercise of rights in relation to participation as documented by
Ramsay and Rowe
(1995)

:

.

rights of notification or access to information;

.

rights to seek review of decisions;

.

rights to force a Government agency to take actio
n; and

.

the ability to bring court proceedings to prevent contravention of the rights to
participation.


There is a wide range of participation methods in use in Australia to inform
environmental management. For example, methods used to achieve participa
tion in one
category of environmental management, that relating to the management of public lands
declared as national parks, include calls for public comment, inclusion of members of
the public in planning groups, surveys of various types and the developm
ent of Friends
groups to work in parks
(James and Blamey 1999a)
. Using the participation typology
provided by
Pimbert and Pretty (1997)

which is based on the degree of public
empowerment associated with the participation p
rocess, public involvement in national
park planning and management in Australia ranges from passive participation (for
example, being informed of the declaration of a new national park) through to what
Pimbert and Pretty describe as interactive participat
ion, involving the public as co
-
decision makers with planners and technocrats (as, for example, occurs in planning for
the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park).


N
ational park management planning

A more detailed example of public participation in national park

management is
provided by consideration of the process used for public participation in park
management planning in New South Wales. The process requires a call for public
comments, followed by consideration of the comments received and provision of
recom
mendations regarding the draft plan to the Minister by the National Parks and
Wildlife Advisory Council (NPWAC). This process would seem, at first glance, to
provide for significant public input.


However, the use of a public call for comment on a draft p
lan as a means of accessing
the views of the public has many limitations. These have been detailed elsewhere
(James and Blamey 1999b)

but include at a minimum the following:

.

the lack of an explicit process for resolution of conflict;

.

the development of public responses in the absence of all relevant information;
and

.

the non
-
representative nature of the responses; the responses will not represent
the general public, but instead will represent the views of those with time to
respond,
a strong interest in the matter and appropriate literacy and language
skills.


Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

3


The use of the NPWAC to review draft management plans and public comments on
them has the potential to allow for the inclusion of the views of the wider community.
An examinati
on of the role and membership of that body does not support this
contention, however. The NPWAC comprises a combination of representatives of
special interest groups and of technical experts of various types, rather than members of
the public. It is not,

therefore, representative of the New South Wales population in any
statistical sense. It instead provides a source of specialist and stakeholder advice to the
Minister.


The processes employed for public participation in planning for the management of
n
ational parks in New South Wales seem, therefore, to be limited to a call for public
comment on draft plans and the provision of recommendations by the NPWAC, which
does not represent the public, to the Minister regarding comments received on the draft
pla
ns. There is no explicit public debate or discussion regarding the comments received
on an individual plan, nor is there an explicit process for resolution of conflicts which
may arise as a consequence of the public comment process.


National park managem
ent

Similarly, there is little involvement of the public in other aspects of national park
management, such as decisions about the allocation of scarce financial and staff
resources to various management activities on individual national parks. It could
p
erhaps be expected that if public input was effective at the management planning stage
then no further input would be required. This is not the case, however, because:

.

the majority of national parks and other protected areas are managed without the
guid
ance of a management plan (for example, in New South Wales there are 479
protected areas, of which only 154 were the subject of an adopted or draft plan at
the end of 1997/8);

.

the life of a management plan in New South Wales is indefinite and the views o
f
the public regarding the park may alter significantly over time;

.

even if a park is subject to a plan and the views of the public have not altered in
the period since the preparation of the plan, there will inevitably be insufficient
funds to conduct al
l the management activities which the public requires; in
many cases there will not even be sufficient funds to meet all the legal
obligations of the management agency with regard to, for example, weeds and
feral animals. Hence some type of prioritisation

of management activities will
be necessary.


Alternative methods

In recent years public participation methods which surmount some of the difficulties
noted above with respect to park management planning have been developed. The lack
of representativeness
, and the deficiencies of time, information and opportunity for
discussion and conflict resolution, evident in the use of processes such as calls for
public comment, can be reduced if not eliminated by the use of methods founded in
participatory and delibe
rative democracy.


These methods, as used in developed countries, have been subject to rapid development
in Europe and the United States over the last 30 years. They include citizens' juries,
consensus conferences and deliberative polls. Until March 19
99, only one application
of such a method had been conducted in Australia. This was the use of a citizens' panel
/ jury to examine options for management of a school
(Carson 1996)
. In the period since
Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

4


there have been several applications
of these methods, as noted in Table 1. None, prior
to the application reported in this paper, have involved environmental issues.


Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

5


Table 1


Application of deliberative democratic methods in Australia, 1999


Method


Topic

Location

Date

Reference

Consen
sus
conference


Gene technology
in the food chain


Canberra

10
-
12 March

(Australian
Museum 1999)
)

Citizens' jury

Social planning


Wollondilly
Shire, NSW


June

(Hardy and
Ruecroft 1999)

Citizens' jury


Management of
nat
ional parks in
New South
Wales


Canberra

5
-
7 October

This paper

Deliberative poll


The republic

Canberra

22
-
24 October

www. i
-
d
-
a.com.au



This burgeoning of interest and the similarities of the methods have provided
opportunities for the rapid refinemen
t of the various methodologies for use in an
Australian context. For example, the consensus conference held in Canberra in March
1999 was an important source of information regarding potential difficulties with the
use of the closely
-
related citizens' jur
y method. Detailed examination of the consensus
conference provided this author with guidance in her subsequent modification of the
standard citizens' jury protocol, as detailed in
James and Blamey (1999a)
.


Citizens' juries

The planning
cell or
planungszelle

method was developed in Germany in 1969 and the
closely similar citizens' jury method was developed in the United States in 1971
(Crosby 1996)
. The citizens' jury method has since been applied in many countries and
o
n many different issues. The principal features of the method, as summarised in James
and Blamey (1999b) from
Crosby (1991, 1996)

are listed in Box 1.


Application of the citizens' jury method to national park management

In order to asses
s the suitability of the method for use in public land management issues,
a citizens' jury was run recently in which the jurors were asked to consider two charges
or questions related to the management of national parks in New South Wales.
3



The jury cons
isted of 13 people, broadly representative of the New South Wales
population. The jury met over two and a half days in Canberra. The jury process was
professionally facilitated. Jurors heard five witnesses address particular elements of the
charges and
two general witnesses, who covered less specific matters concerning
national park management practices. The five expert witnesses addressed the



3

A detailed report on both the process and the results of the citizens' jury will be available in the near
future, both in print

and electronic form. Accordingly, the amount of detail herein will be limited and
attention will be given instead to discussion of the implications of the outcomes for the future use of the
method in Australia.


Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

6


management of fire, weeds, feral animals, historic sites and infrastructure in national
parks.


The charges or
questions which the jurors were required to address were briefly as
follows. In the first charge, the jurors were asked to decide as a group the most
appropriate allocation of expenditure by the NSW NPWS from three options presented.
The options, specifi
ed to be budget neutral in comparison with the current budget for all
the activities, were as shown in Boxes 2 and 3.


After considering the information provided by the witnesses and deliberating
individually and as a group, the jury chose Option 1.


The c
ondition of budget neutrality was then relaxed. In what is understood to be the
first application of what this author has termed deliberative valuation, performing non
-
market valuation in a deliberative context, the jury was then asked to address the
foll
owing charge.


How high would a park management levy have to be, before the jury would recommend
Option 1 rather than Option 4 below? In other words, how high would the levy have to
be before the NSW public would be no better off under Option 4 than Optio
n 1?


The purpose of this charge was to determine the jury's willingness to pay for the posited
increased levels of management activities. The jury, after considerable debate regarding
both the notion of a payment and the most appropriate basis for paymen
t, opted for a
levy based on a percentage of gross income. The agreed percentage was 0.1%,
determined on the basis of a majority vote.


A second form of non
-
market valuation was conducted over the same period. Both
prior to and after the citizens' jury p
rocess, the participants in the citizens' jury were
asked to complete a choice modelling questionnaire, which contained choice sets similar
in form to those used for the two citizens' jury charges. Each of the 64 choice sets
contained three options
-

Opt
ion A, the current situation; Option B, a budget neutral
alteration; and Option C, an option with increased levels of at least some park
management activities and a proposed income tax levy. The same questionnaire was
used for all participants on each occ
asion. Three weeks later, an unrelated group
completed the same questionnaire twice, two days apart, to permit determination of the
effects of prior experience with the survey instrument on the results obtained. The
impact of increased time, information a
nd deliberation on the individual specific choice
models developed in the context of the citizens' jury are of particular interest in the light
of criticisms levelled at survey
-
based non
-
market valuation methods which require
identification of individual p
references. The results of this element of the work will be
reported at a later date.


Guidelines for the application of the citizens' jury method

This application of the method has provided much information to guide future use of the
method on environme
ntal issues. Several modifications of the standard citizens' jury
protocol were proposed in
James and Blamey (1999a)
. A number of additional
recommendations can be made at this early stage of analysis of the results of this recent
work;
these are documented below in italics.


Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

7


1.

Problem complexity

Citizens' jury charges are most commonly of the following form:


'What are the needs / priorities / issues / impacts associated with current or
proposed Activity X?'


In this jury, the jurors were

asked to consider in each charge a multi
-
faceted problem
and to make tradeoffs between levels of activities which in themselves produced
different but unquantified levels of change in what might be termed resultant attributes
(e.g. biodiversity). That is
, jurors were not only trading off altered levels of park
management activities but were doing so in the necessary absence of full information
about the impacts of these alterations on the features of the parks, such as biodiversity.
This level of decisio
n complexity, coupled with the technical complexity of the base
information which the jurors received, presented the jury with some substantial
challenges. The jury met these challenges with some enthusiasm. However, less
energetic or articulate juries w
ould perhaps avoid the demands of decision
-
making in
such a complex framework by choosing an option with far less deliberation.


In future applications the cognitive load posed by the proposed charge should be
subject to scrutiny before finalisation of the

charge. In addition, where technical data
are unavailable or are subject to uncertainty, these aspects should be made clear to
jurors early in the citizens' jury process.


2.

Participant stress

Recognition should be given to the level of stress created by p
articipation in the jury
process for some participants. For some attendees, attending the jury was perhaps the
first occasion on which they had been in an aircraft or stayed in a hotel. Others had not
participated in schooling for some 45 years, or had d
one so only to the age of 14 or so.
These factors presented an additional burden to some of the jurors.


Attention should be paid to ensure that the jurors are comfortable with the demands of
the process and are able to function effectively as members of

the jury.


3.

Multiple roles

On this occasion, one individual on the project team had multiple roles. She made the
arrangements for the conduct of the jury, appeared as a witness and was active
throughout the conduct of the jury in ensuring that all accommo
dation, meal, staffing
and witness arrangements were satisfactory. In addition, the jury process formed the
basis of her PhD research. The jurors were aware of these multiple roles and it is
possible that this multiplicity of roles affected the jury proc
ess at times. In particular,
the jurors may have hesitated to be as demanding of her as a witness than would have
otherwise been the case.


It is recommended that no witnesses should be part of the project team.


4.

Neutral witnesses

It was decided, as note
d in
James and Blamey (1999a)
, to introduce a neutral witness
who could address questions which were beyond the expertise of the expert witnesses or
would require a non
-
partisan view. Accordingly, two such witnesses were used. The
benefi
t from the use of these witnesses was extremely high . The general witnesses,
with wide experience in park management, provided an overview of national park
Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

8


management which enabled the jurors to consider the charge in the context of current
management pr
actice.


The use of a neutral and/or generalist witness is strongly recommended.


5.

Scenario construction and witness selection

The use of a non
-
adversarial charge
-

one for which there are no clear proponents
-

is
unusual in the practice of citizens' juries.

The selection of witnesses for this jury posed
some challenges and it was with some trepidation that the scenario was designed to be
non
-
adversarial. Nonetheless, the jury process functioned well and the lack of an
adversarial stance by the witnesses di
d not result in a low level of interest or
commitment on either their part or that of the jury.


The use of a non
-
adversarial context appears to offer an alternative to the usual
adversarial approach. However, the use of a non
-
adversarial scenario or ch
arge
should be considered carefully, as it may result in low juror engagement in the jury
process.


6.

Juror training

The jurors had a wide range of educational backgrounds. The provision of training in
note taking and questioning was well
-
received by the ju
rors and appeared to be of
benefit.


It is recommended that such training be provided to all citizens' juries; however, care
should be taken to avoid an atmosphere of condescension.


7.

Witnesses

The witnesses were given specific guidelines regarding what wa
s sought for their
presentations. Not all witness presentations accorded with the guidelines. In particular,
the jury noted that some presentations did not focus sufficiently on the charge. This
created concerns on the part of some jurors who felt that

they did not receive all the
information which they needed in order to reach a decision. Additional material was
presented to the jury in an extra session on the last day which allayed these concerns. It
should be stressed that the flaw in this applica
tion lay with the mismatch between some
witnesses and the information which they were asked to present, rather than with the
witnesses.


In future juries, it is recommended that witnesses be asked to evaluate their capacities
to match the guidelines pro
vided to them and to if possible give a trial run of their
presentations to the project team.


8.

Time for witnesses

Each witness was allocated a total of 45 minutes, of which 30 minutes was spent in
providing information to the jury. This was insufficient
from the jury's perspective.


It is recommended that at least one hour be scheduled for each witness.


Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

9


Conclusions

The citizens' jury method can be applied to complex environmental issues, as is
evidenced by the recent application of the method to the ma
nagement of national parks
in New South Wales. The method provides a means of accessing informed public
opinion on environmental issues from representative groups of citizens. It can be used
both for non
-
market valuation of proposed options and for selec
tion between options.


Guidelines for the future use of the method for elucidation of public preferences include
those detailed in an earlier paper
(James and Blamey 1999a)

and in this paper.


The method will function best when applied to

issues which are:

.

substantial;

.

topical;

.

of public interest;

.

complex;


and for which there is no clearly evident public preference.


Matters concerning land use planning, waste disposal and public land management,
amongst others, would appear to be

well
-
suited to this method.



Box 1


Features of citizens' juries


.

the topic should be one which serves the general public interest and not sectional
interests;

.

the jury of 12
-
24 is given a specific charge to examine;

.

the charge should be clear and
concise;

.

the process is facilitated;

.

the panel is selected either randomly or by use of stratified random sampling;

.

selection bases may be demographic, attitudinal or both;

.

the panel members are paid;

.

information is presented to the panel by witn
esses who represent divergent viewpoints;

.

the panel members have sufficient time to deliberate on and review all their findings
and recommendations;

.

thus the panel meets most usually for 2
-
4 days; and

.

the final report of the jury includes an evaluat
ion of the process by the jurors.


The method is seen as offering a means for the development, articulation and transmission to
decision
-

makers and government of informed, deliberated public views on matters of public
policy or interest.


Modified from
James and Blamey (1999b)



Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

10



Box 2


The first charge


Outcomes of National Park
Management


Option 1

current

situation


Option 2


Option 3










Number of national parks with
good fire management



100


40


160


Area of feral animal

control
each year (hectares)



50 000

ha


100 000
ha


30 000 ha


Area of weed control each year
(hectares)



3 000 ha


1 000 ha


10 000 ha


Proportion of facilities that are
well maintained



35%


45%


25%


Number of well protected
historic sites



7
000


6 000


7 500




Box 3


The second charge



Outcomes of National Park
Management


Option 1

current

situation


Option 4









Number of national parks with
good fire management



100


400


Area of feral animal control
each year (hectares)



50 00
0

ha


160 000 ha


Area of weed control each year
(hectares)



3 000 ha


9 600 ha


Proportion of facilities that are
well maintained



35%


100%


Number of well protected
historic sites



7 000


7 900


Levy on income tax



$ 0


$ ??



Paper presented at the 12
th

Annual National Conference of the Environment Institute of Australia, Hobart,
Tasmania, 1
-
3 December, 1999

11


Acknowledgment

Thanks are due to Russell Blamey for his assistance and guidance during this work.



References

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Gene Technology in the Food Chain
. Report of the First
Australian Consensus Conference. Canberra, ACT, Australia, Au
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Unpublished PhD thesis. Faculty of Education, Work and Training.
Lismore, Southern Cross University: 278 + app.



Crosby, N. (1991).
Citi
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A, Jefferson Center: 43.



Crosby, N. (1996).
Creating an authentic voice of the people
. Deliberation on
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Hardy, M. and S. Ruecroft (1999).
Case study of the Wollondilly Shire Council social
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