East Point is a planned $250m international tourist destination and residential development to occupy 70 hectares of land south of the Mackay Harbour.
Eastpoint Mackay Pty Ltd (EMPL) has spent the past decade battling with local, state and federal governments as well as environmental, Indigenous and industry groups to gain approval to commence the development.
In June 2003, when the project had virtually stalled, McCalls was commissioned by EMPL to implement an education campaign aimed at increasing support for the East Point project among the Mackay community, in order to ensure the projects immediate and future viability.
The campaign required strong community communication incorporating a range of public relations activities including public consultation, stakeholder relations, media relations, publications management and website development.
The campaign proved highly successful, significantly raising support for East Point to 79% of the local community, and addressing a number of misconceptions about the project. In early 2004, the East Point development received in-principle approval from the Mackay City Council following assessment by State Government agencies and the Council.
East Point is a planned $250m international tourist destination and residential development to occupy 70 hectares of land at East Point, south of the Mackay Harbour.
In 1995 the Department of Natural Resources, along with the Department of State Development, put the East Point land out for expressions of interest for tourist industry development.
After winning the tender, Eastpoint Mackay Pty Ltd (EMPL) has spent the past decade battling with local, state and federal governments as well as environmental, Indigenous and industry groups to gain approval for the development.
Crucial to securing the future of the project and progressing it forward was obtaining development approval from the Mackay City Council and State Government agencies as well as obtaining clearances from the Australian Government.
East Point would be the biggest tourist development in Queensland since Couran Cove was built in 1998. This is a significant project in the context of the Mackay region, which is struggling to compete with Cairns and Townsville as a tourist destination on the Queensland map.
In June 2003, when the project had virtually stalled, McCalls was commissioned by EMPL to reignite the project through a community education campaign. McCalls was presented with the challenge of gaining support for East Point from local residents, Mackay City Councillors, media, and other government authorities in a time of significant uncertainty and opposition within sections of the community.
McCalls undertook the following research for the campaign:
Client Meetings<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
McCalls held meetings with the client to understand the history of the project and the environment surrounding the current debate.
The meetings highlighted:
- The project commenced almost ten years ago and had stalled because of lack of support from the community and other key stakeholders
- <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />East Point has the potential to place Mackay on the map as a Queensland tourist destination
- The critical importance of Native Title issues
- Significant opposition from some environmental and fishing groups
- A number of key Mackay identities support the project.
At the commencement of the campaign, EMPL and McCalls commissioned a survey of 400 Mackay residents to ascertain awareness of, and attitudes to, the development.
The survey highlighted the following key issues:
- The majority of people had heard only a little about the project
- 43% of people surveyed supported East Point, 26% opposed the project, and 31% were neutral
- A significant number of people were strongly concerned about the potential negative environmental impacts of the project (49%)
- The majority of people believed the development would be a gated community with no public benefits or facilities (57%).
McCalls undertook an analysis of material circulated by groups opposed to the project.
This material highlighted:
- The groups expended significant time and resources mounting a campaign against the development
- Many of the facts contained in their collateral were incorrect
- Competing groups included the Mackay Conservation Group, Sunfish Mackay and Indigenous groups
<?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml" /><?xml:namespace prefix = w ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" />Media Coverage
The media coverage research revealed:
- A significant amount of negative media coverage was being generated about the project
- Most stories only contained the opinion of the Mackay Conservation Group.
This research was fundamental in enabling McCalls to understand current perceptions amongst local residents, and how these perceptions were being influenced by the media and competing groups.
McCalls identified the following target publics for the campaign:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Relationship to EMPL
Local Mackay residents
Key Mackay identities/ groups
Mackay City Council
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Relevant State Government departments
Strategy<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The campaign strategy involved providing factual, regular and proactive communication with Mackay residents and other key stakeholders to provide a sense of ownership for the project.
Local Mackay identities, including a long serving former State MP and representatives from Aboriginal and fishing groups, were used as ambassadors to endorse and spread the campaign theme and messages.
Key Communications Theme and Messages
McCalls developed the campaign theme, Creating a Great Future Liveability in the Whitsundays. This theme stemmed from research highlighting the significance of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />East Point in placing Mackay on the Queensland tourism map and the importance of the project to enhance the community for all residents.
This theme was supported by the following key messages:
- Economic East Point will create a great future for the region by pouring in substantial investment, leading to more jobs, business and tourism opportunities, and economic growth
- Liveability The development will enhance liveability for Mackay residents by providing public access to playground equipment, stinger-free lagoons, shelters and barbeques
- Environment EMPL is committed to an ongoing environmental management plan to enhance the native flora and fauna, and create an eco-tourism attraction for Mackay
- Facilities EMPL will improve fishing facilities for locals by providing access to the beach, river, and new recreation areas and facilities.
Implementation<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
To implement the campaign strategy, McCalls used the following communications tools:
McCalls delivered a comprehensive information program to the Mackay community in two stages in June 2003 and January 2004. The information program involved manned public displays and public consultation at Mackays two largest shopping centres, the Mackay Surf Lifesaving Club, and the two Council libraries.
<?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml" /><?xml:namespace prefix = w ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word" />Model Display
A significant aspect of the campaign was the development of a scale model of the proposed development (a photo of the model can be found in Appendix A1). McCalls manned displays of the model at Caneland Central and Mt Pleasant Shopping Centres.
The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />East Point model provided an exact representation of the project, allowing community members to view the development and its specific design features. The model generated high interest amongst the Mackay community and successfully dispelled a number of misrepresentations about the development.
An important part of the campaign was the use of local Mackay identities to provide third party endorsement of the project. McCalls enlisted the following locals as ambassadors:
- Tim Mulherin MP, State Member for Mackay
- Ed Casey, former long serving Member for Mackay and State Cabinet Minister
- Tony Irelandes, well-known Mackay fisherman and spokesperson for the Yuibera Aboriginal tribe
- The Shailer family, high profile local residents.
McCalls coordinated an active media relations strategy to support the community consultation program. The media campaign included face-to-face meetings with the Mackay Daily Mercury and reporters from Channel 7 and ABC Radio.
Key publications were produced throughout the campaign and distributed to more than 24,000 households in the Mackay region. These publications included:
- Development Brochure A brochure containing in-depth information about the environment, community and other elements of East Point (see Appendix A2).
- Question and Answer Sheet A quick reference point with key information about the development (see Appendix A3).
- Promotional Brochure A brochure promoting the developments environmental, economic and public benefits (see Appendix A4).
- Model Brochure A large photo of the East Point model and information about the current status and future direction of the project (see Appendix A4).
McCalls developed an active website, which provided access to all information circulated to the community. The website also contained information regarding the history of East Point, environmental facts, photos, and maps and diagrams to clearly explain the development.
Meetings were held with the following stakeholders:
- Tim Mulherin MP, State Member for Mackay
- Tom Barton MP, Minister for State Development
- Julie Boyd, Mackay Mayor
- De-Anne Kelly MP, Federal Member for Dawson
- John Taylor, ChairmanMackayPort Authority
- Greg Breckell, Councillor for Division 3
- Greg McNeil, Councillor for Division 4
- Lance Murray and Noel Whitehead, Sunfish Mackay
- David Phillips, Mackay Tourism.
To measure the results of the campaign, McCalls developed a feedback form for voluntary acquisition by shoppers at the consultation displays. Approximately 300 feedback forms were returned. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
After compiling the feedback, it was found that 79% recorded strong support for the project. It was found the most frequent comments related to the benefits of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />East Point to the growth of Mackay, tourism, and the local economy and employment.
The results from the feedback forms also found a significant decrease in the number of people who had concerns about the potential environmental impacts of the project and access issues.
In early 2004, the East Point development received in-principle approval from the Mackay City Council following assessment by State Government agencies and the Council. The project has also received clearances from the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
McCalls has now been commissioned by EPML to carry out stage two of the communications campaign.
Objective 1: Raise awareness and support levels of the project to 75% amongst the local Mackay community <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Objective 1 Achieved:
Of the 300 feedback forms returned, it was found that 79% of people recorded strong support for the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />East Point development. This was 4% above the campaign objective, and a significant 36% increase in support from the initial survey.
Objective 2: Correct inaccurate perceptions about the development
Objective 2 Achieved:
Feedback indicated a significant change in attitudes in relation to the following key aspects of the development:
- Only 17% of people recorded strong concerns about the potential environmental impact of the development. This was a 32% decrease in concerns from the initial survey
- Only 4% of people recorded strong concerns about East Point being a gated community. This was a significant decrease of 53% from the initial survey.
Objective 3: Secure positive and minimise negative media coverage for the development
Objective 3 Achieved:
McCalls generated positive stories throughout the campaign in local media outlets including the Mackay Daily Mercury, ABC Radio and Channel 7 news. McCalls also built strong relationships with key journalists, ensuring EMPL received the opportunity to be interviewed regarding any issues surrounding the development.
In particular, the Mackay Daily Mercury featured a full-page article titled, Model details features of East Point plan to coincide with the launch of the model. The newspaper also undertook a follow-up story, randomly asking members of the public: Are you in favour of the East Point development Published responses were 3:1 in favour of the development (See Appendix A6 and A7).
Objective 4: Attract interest from potential investors
Objective 4 Achieved:
Throughout the campaign, McCalls attracted significant interest from members of the community interested in purchasing land at East Point. In total, there were more than 100 direct approaches via feedback forms, telephone and email for further information on the opportunity to purchase lots.