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Brisbane Water Enviro Alliance

Client: 

Brisbane Waters

PR Company: 

Marcom Communication

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2004 B 2

Year: 

2004

Executive Summary: 

The Brisbane Water Enviro Alliance is a partnership between Brisbane Water, constructor John Holland, wastewater treatment specialists Aquatec-Maxcon and consulting engineers MWH and JWP.

MarCom Communication was sub-contracted as part of the Alliance Management Team to ensure the best possible communication outcomes for the high budget Brisbane City Council project.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Numerous pre-existing community issues threatened to generate negative publicity, lack of support and neighbour protest for the upgrades to the Sandgate, Oxley Creek and Wacol wastewater treatment plants.

A community communication program was implemented that involved highly targeted communication to resolve issues and broader community awareness raising activities, resulting in 100 percent achievement of communication objectives. 

This achievement included, quite significantly, support for the project from plant neighbours (a group who previously opposed any upgrade to the plants), support from environmental and community opinion leaders, along with successful promotion of the positive environmental legacy of this Brisbane Water project.

Situation Analysis: 

Essential upgrade - Multiple issues

The Brisbane Water Enviro Alliance (BWEA) is a partnership between Brisbane Water, constructor John Holland, wastewater specialists Aquatec-Maxcon and consulting engineers MWH and JWP.  The Alliance project would design and construct essential upgrades to three Brisbane wastewater treatment plants:

  • Sandgate - Paperbark Drive, Sandgate
  • Oxley Creek - Donaldson Road, Rocklea
  • Wacol - Grindle Road, Wacol.

A number of critical issues necessitated these upgrades:

  • population growth intensifying demand on plant capacity
  • treated effluent quality targets set by the Moreton Bay Water Quality Management Strategy to clean up the Bay and bring back its Dugong population
  • water quality concerns regarding recreational use of waterways used for treated effluent discharge
  • existing plant odour impact on surrounding residential precincts.
Communication Challenges

 

The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Alliance faced significant communication challenges, particularly during the projects establishment phase between July 2003 and June 2004 when the Oxley Creek and Sandgate plants were the focus of the project (Wacol would commence in 2005). 


Partner Organisations<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


lack of belief in the Alliance method of project delivery and its ability to achieve significant outcomes



consistency of communication within the alliance, given the number of sites and size of the project


Plant neighbours


dissatisfaction with plant location near residential properties, generating a desire to remove the plants, not upgrade



perception the plants produce harmful emissions



negativity from many years of odour impacts


Community


expectation treated effluent would be reused not discharged into local waterways, particularly given recent drought conditions



apathy in relation to consultation, given the lack of communication on past projects



existing dissatisfaction regarding lack of closure of issues raised in the past



lack of community understanding regarding the need to upgrade

Effective community communication was vital to achieve support for:

 the Alliance method of project delivery

the large budget expenditure earmarked for the project project benefits to the environment.

Research: 

Setting the foundation and Confirming success

Pre-communication Research<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Due to the vast range of communication issues facing this project, pre-communication research was vital to successful communication planning.  The following research was conducted in July 2003:

Stakeholder analysis workshop

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Alliance team members, local Councillors and Brisbane Water personnel were invited to participate in a workshop which identified:

  • key community and environment interest groups
  • community opinion leaders
  • vocal residents and individuals.

The potential project interest of each of these was discussed and management strategies developed.

This information was used to develop targeted communication strategies and a comprehensive target public database.

Previous Community Reference Group meeting records

The minutes of pre-BWEA community meetings were reviewed to determine the:

  • individuals involved
  • undertakings made
  • key concerns and issues
  • issues remaining outstanding.

This information assisted in proactive issues identification and resolution.  Trust was developed in the competency of this new project team by addressing outstanding issues early in the project, creating foundations for positive relationships.

Neighbours benchmark survey (see Appendix A-1)

A doorknock survey of plant neighbours was undertaken in July 2003 to provide a benchmark of perceptions in relation to:

  • plant odour and environmental impact
  • past management of resident issues and concerns
  • plant management.

This survey identified a low level of satisfaction with plant operation and management of residents concerns, particularly in relation to odour.  Key technical objectives for the project were identified and communication plans developed to promote these.

Plant complaints register review

Treatment plant complaints registers were reviewed to determine:

  • frequent complainants
  • most frequently raised issues
  • responses provided.

This review identified aspects of the plants operation to be addressed to gain community support for the upgrades.  It also identified residents key to achieving this support.


Post-communication research

Research was also undertaken during and following implementation of this community communication program, including:

                                                                                               

Neighbour benchmark survey

The second neighbour survey, conducted in June 2004, determined if perceptions had changed and if the communication program had achieved neighbour support.

The results were used to determine the success of the program in achieving improved plant neighbour perceptions.

Community Representative Group (CRG) satisfaction survey (see Appendix A-2)

CRG members were asked to complete a questionnaire, rating the Alliance on:

  • quality of CRG involvement

  • quality of information provided

  • overall satisfaction with issues responsiveness.
  • The results were used to determine the success of the program in gaining support from key community opinion leaders.

Internal Alliance survey (see Appendix A-3)

Conducted by sub-contractor PCI at six monthly intervals, this email-based survey of Alliance partner organisation personnel was used to determine:

  • awareness of Alliance progress and achievements

  • awareness of communication procedures

  • issues of concern.

The results were used to determine the success of internal communication.

Setting the foundation and Confirming success

Pre-communication Research

Due to the vast range of communication issues facing this project, pre-communication research was vital to successful communication planning.  The following research was conducted in July 2003:

Stakeholder analysis workshop

Alliance team members, local Councillors and Brisbane Water personnel were invited to participate in a workshop which identified:

  • key community and environment interest groups
  • community opinion leaders

vocal residents and individuals.

The potential project interest of each of these was discussed and management strategies developed.

This information was used to develop targeted communication strategies and a comprehensive target public database.

Previous Community Reference Group meeting records

The minutes of pre-BWEA community meetings were reviewed to determine the:

  • individuals involved
  • undertakings made
  • key concerns and issues
  • issues remaining outstanding.

This information assisted in proactive issues identification and resolution.  Trust was developed in the competency of this new project team by addressing outstanding issues early in the project, creating foundations for positive relationships.

Neighbours benchmark survey (see Appendix A-1)

A doorknock survey of plant neighbours was undertaken in July 2003 to provide a benchmark of perceptions in relation to:

  • plant odour and environmental impact
  • past management of resident issues and concerns
  • plant management.

This survey identified a low level of satisfaction with plant operation and management of residents concerns, particularly in relation to odour.  Key technical objectives for the project were identified and communication plans developed to promote these.

Plant complaints register review

Treatment plant complaints registers were reviewed to determine:

  • frequent complainants
  • most frequently raised issues
  • responses provided.

This review identified aspects of the plants operation to be addressed to gain community support for the upgrades.  It also identified residents key to achieving this support.

Post-communication research

Research was also undertaken during and following implementation of this community communication program, including:                                                                                     

Neighbour benchmark survey

The second neighbour survey, conducted in June 2004, determined if perceptions had changed and if the communication program had achieved neighbour support.

The results were used to determine the success of the program in achieving improved plant neighbour perceptions.

Community Representative Group (CRG) satisfaction survey (see Appendix A-2)

CRG members were asked to complete a questionnaire, rating the Alliance on:

  • quality of CRG involvement

  • quality of information provided

  • overall satisfaction with issues responsiveness.
  • The results were used to determine the success of the program in gaining support from key community opinion leaders.

Internal Alliance survey (see Appendix A-3)

Conducted by sub-contractor PCI at six monthly intervals, this email-based survey of Alliance partner organisation personnel was used to determine:

  • awareness of Alliance progress and achievements

  • awareness of communication procedures

  • issues of concern.

The results were used to determine the success of internal communication 

Target Policies: 

Direct impact = Direct interest

As wastewater treatment plants are generally out of public view, only those with a direct impact from the plants operation would have a real project interest. 

Research identified the following publics would have this real interest:


Internal Audiences<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Brisbane City Council

Lord Mayor

Councillors

Brisbane Water Personnel


Council would be the ultimate judge of the success of this, the largest Alliance ever undertaken by Brisbane City Council.

The Lord Mayor was publicly accountable for the project, its budget and achievements.

Councillors were locally answerable to their constituents for project outcomes.

Awareness of project issues, status and achievements at all times was imperative.


Partner Organisations

 


Partner organisations reputations depended on Alliance success.  Involvement of the right people was imperative to success. 

Access to accurate, up to date information about issues, achievements and progress was vital.


Alliance Team


Fronting the project and responsible for its success.

Awareness of communication processes for media inquiries, resident contact and complaints was vital to ensure no issue was overlooked.

Clear communication procedures were required. 


External Audiences


Plant Neighbours

Oxley Creek

Sandgate


Those most affected by the operation of the plants.

This group would benefit most from the upgrade if their issues were effectively addressed.

Clear, open and honest communication was vital.


Environment and Community Groups

Catchment Committees

Resident groups


Those most interested in the environmental objectives and social outcomes of the upgrades.

These groups could generate negative media coverage if their interests were not adequately addressed.

Communication Strategy: 

Communication Strategy and Implementation Extensive, effective communication

Strategy<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The community communication strategy was developed to generate project awareness, promote its benefits and generate support, through:

  • use of targeted communication to gain the support of identified key publics
  • use of mass distribution community information tools involve the broader community
  • promotion of project environmental benefits in all communication materials to provide a greater opportunity for support
  • presentation of the three upgrades as a Brisbane-wide strategy to avoid a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) response.

Implementation

Communication tools used to implement this strategy and achieve project objectives included:


Internal Communication


Internal awareness


Monthly internal newsletter to update progress and promote achievements (see Appendix A-4)

Councillor briefings to update progress

Internal briefings to advise of current activity

Display materials in offices to provide a visual project presence


Correct communication procedures


Communication protocols to guide processes

      (see Appendix A-5)


External Communication


Neighbour support


Direct mail letters to provide regular progress reports

    Doorknock survey to identify neighbour perceptions and discuss issues

Plant tours to provide a realimpression of upgrade progress

Free-call telephone line for issues discussion


Community and environment group support


Direct mail letters to update progress and invite involvement

Community Representative Groups to workshop issues of concern and develop support

Air quality presentations to address plant emission concerns


No complaints


Construction notification letters to advise of activity likely to cause increased noise/odour

      (see Appendix A-6/7)


Reposition client


Newsletters, public displays, web page and media releases to promote the projects environmental benefits

      (see Appendix A-8/9/10/11)

Articles in industry publications to promote <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Alliance achievements (see Appendix A-12)


Implementation: 

Results: 

Quality Communication

All objectives of the community communication program were achieved (see Evaluation section).<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

In addition:

  • Final upgrade plans included additional odour treatment measures to address neighbour concerns and win their support.

  • Neighbour perceptions of toxic plant emissions were addressed through Air Quality Scientist presentations.
  • Concerns raised regarding outlet pipes in Cabbage Tree Creek being struck by trawlers resulted in improvements to plans eliminating this risk.

  • Various environmental and social issues were raised by the CRGs.  These were investigated, responded to and closed out over six meetings.  Even contentious issues, including wastewater reuse in remote farming communities, were resolved through detailed, open communication.  No issues remain outstanding.

  • One page of each edition of the BWEA newsletter has been dedicated to public education about wastewater at the request of environment groups.
  • Additional revegetation works were included around the plants at the request of environmental groups.
  • BWEA was invited to participate in the 2004 Oxley Creek Festival.
  • No negative media coverage was received, despite the projects high dollar value and priority for Brisbane City Council.

 

Evaluation: 

100% Successful

This community communication program was highly successful in meeting and exceeding original objectives. 

Internal awareness - Achieved<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Over 90% of personnel surveyed noted a high level of awareness, and the remainder satisfactory awareness, of project status, activities and successes.

Correct communication procedures - Achieved

No issue was overlooked or unrecorded.  Correct procedures were followed at all times.

Neighbour support - Achieved

Neighbour perceptions improved from a negative rating in 2003 to a positive rating in 2004 (1 = very bad, 5 = very good):


Issue


Oxley Creek


Sandgate



2003


2004


2003


2004


Odour impact


2.1


3.5


2.5


3.4


Odour frequency


Four

times a week


Twice monthly


Fortnightly


Fortnightly


Issues responsiveness


2.3


4.5


3.0


4.4


Environmental impact


2.1


4.2


2.5


3.9

Community and environment group support - Achieved

CRG survey results confirmed support for the project and management of their issues

 (1 = dissatisfied, 3 = just adequate, 5 = satisfied):


Aspect


Oxley Creek


Sandgate


Operation


5.0


4.0


Quality of information


5.0


4.0


Involvement


4.5


3.8


Information sharing


4.5


4.4


Communication materials


5.0


4.0

No construction complaints  - Achieved

No odour or noise complaints were received during construction to June 2004.

Reposition client  Anecdotally achieved

All communication materials carried an environmental message.  No negative media coverage was received.  Environmental groups noted their support for project objectives.