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Winning the Battle for the Barracks

Client: 

Australian Government Dept. of Defence

PR Company: 

Phillips Group

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2006 C1 - 2

Year: 

2006

Executive Summary: 

Mobilising Defence personnel, warring political opponents, environmental lobbyists, military heritage activists, opportunistic property developers, misinformed media, intense community interest, unsubstantiated rumours, short time frames – this project successfully overcame many complex challenges. The Department of Defence’s highly contentious decision to dispose of Army barracks on prime land in the northern city of Townsville tested the organisation’s solid reputation as a contributor to the region’s economic prosperity. What was originally a community relations program to support a Future Options Study for Jezzine Barracks, including Kissing Point evolved into a multifaceted, politically sensitive issues/risk management program, requiring increased stakeholder interaction, proactive media relations and strong stakeholder engagement..

The three-phased pro-active approach implemented by Phillips Group successfully took stakeholders on a journey as the Study progressed. It achieved the overarching goal by engaging and gathering the opinions of a broad cross section of diverse community stakeholders in order for them to input into development of the site’s draft future land use options. The approach also effectively met four objectives by utilising an integrated suite of consultation mechanisms and communication methods.

Situation Analysis: 

The Department of Defence’s decision in 1997 to potentially dispose of Army barracks in the north Australian garrison city of Townsville was always destined to create intense community interest. As a result, the Commonwealth Government directed Defence early in 2005 to undertake a Future Options Study to identify the best use of the historic Jezzine Barracks and Kissing Point site.

From a community relations perspective, the Future Options Study was a complex and challenging project due to the need from the outset to assess and address ongoing concerns and speculation from a large number of stakeholders about the site’s future, including its possible sale for private development. There was also a fundamental need for any future land uses to meet the Commonwealth’s Defence operational needs, disposal policy requirements and obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to protect the site’s heritage values. A highly desirable and sought after piece of waterfront real estate – with breathtaking views to Great Barrier Reef waters – the site was contentious given its strategic location; inclusion of a rare heritage-listed 19th century fort built on the site’s rocky headland and the recent unpopular disposal of other Commonwealth Townsville property with no community consultation.

With opposing political parties heading local, st ate and federal governments, the scene was set for potential national political point scoring, while an uninformed local media was open to misinformation fuelled by unsubstantiated rumours. Influential military heritage and key community opinion leaders rallied a campaign opposing the Study before it started. With more than 6000 Australian Defence Force personnel stationed in the garrison city, Defence’s solid reputation as a key contributor to North Queensland’s economic prosperity was at risk. What was originally a community relations program evolved into a highly complex, politically sensitive issues and risk management program, requiring increased stakeholder interaction, a greater media campaign and expanded engagement with Townsville residents.

Research: 

Field research, including meetings with Defence Property Disposal members and legal/environment/heritage specialists, identified key campaign issues. Project requirements – and consequently strategy objectives – were dictated by the Commonwealth’s Defence operational needs, disposal policy requirements and obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to protect the site’s heritage values.

Ongoing research was conducted during stakeholder meetings to identify significant considerations in developing future land options, while site visits identified historical/town planning/environmental landmarks.

Desk research included detailed examination of historical/indigenous/environmental documents and analysis of key stakeholders/interest groups including military heritage associations.

Target Policies: 

Target Publics

Audience

Issues
Outcomes required for success
Townsville Community
Residents
Community groups
» Perceived lack of information/ transparency about site’s future
» Dissent due to lack of public access following September 11, 2001
» Potential for loss of military history/amenity/open space
» Perception Federal Government ignoring regional community
» Opposition to heritage development
» Receptive to correct information
» Options development Contribution
Government
Local (Mayor,
Councillors)
State (Member,
Parliamentary Secretary for Premier and Treasurer in North Queensland)
Federal (Local Member for Herbert, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for Defence)
» Perceived lack of information/consultation with community
» Conflict between local and state Labor representatives/ Liberal federal member
» Perception Federal Government ignoring the regions
» Potential for loss of valued heritage
» Limited public site access
» Risk to heritage buildings/loss of values
» Regularly meet project team
» Options development contribution
» Jezzine Barracks Consultative Forum (JBCF) members
Environment
Environmental
Protection Agency
Department of Environment and  Heritage
» Preservation of Kissing Point/offshore World Heritage Area
» Possible impacts on flora/fauna
» Possibility of losing open space to development
» Attend project team meetings
» Provide environmental input
» JBCF representative
Indigenous Groups
Bindal
Wulgurukaba
» Possible Native Title claim
» Acknowledgement of indigenous ties to land/involvement in past wars
» Involvement of indigenous people in future site uses
» Focus group participation
» Options development contribution
» JBCF members
Media
Townsville print, radio,
Television
» Site already media focus
» Potential conflict between local community/Federal government
» Perceived lack of information, transparency
» Potential for Army history loss
» Potential rare foreshore space lost to development
» Potential for negative comment/unbalanced reporting
» Provide balanced Study progress reports
» Present unbiased options information
Heritage/Military
Townsville Museum, Queensland Heritage Council, Returned Services League, North  Queensland Military Museum, North Australian Military Heritage Association,
Australian Heritage Commission,  National Trust
» Preserving important military heritage
» Federal government ignoring regional communities
» Preserving environmental values
» Potential heritage buildings removal
» JBCF representatives
» Options development contribution
» Attend project meetings
Industry Groups
Chamber of Commerce
Townsville Enterprise Limited
» Opportunities for employment/development/tourism/ convention facilities » JBCF members
» Options development contribution
Defence
Jezzine personnel Army History Unit
» Site historical significance
» Army History
» Options development contribution

Communication Strategy: 

To achieve the Study goal and overcome the challenges faced, the Project Team:

  • Undertook a comprehensive consultation program through a wide range of mechanisms to ensure the Townsville community was given a number of opportunities to input into the Study and contribute to the draft options
  • Utilised targeted communication methods to ensure all stakeholders were kept up-to-date with the Study’s progress and to ensure the timely and accurate dissemination of all information
  • Established a Jezzine Barracks Consultative Forum (JBCF) to give community leaders and Defence representatives maximum opportunities to contribute to the Study.

The strategic approach was to:

  • Provide regular briefings to key stakeholders and information to the community to inform them about the Study process and Defence plans for the site
  • Engage and manage stakeholder and community inputs into the process, based on a collaborative, open and transparent process
  • Harness the power of key influencers to obtain endorsement of the consultation and communication process
  • Protect the reputation of the Department of Defence and the Study through risk and issue management and an ongoing media campaign
  • Gradually take all stakeholders on a positive journey as the Study progresses to ensure the best outcome for Defence and the community.

This approach included issues/risk management and media and reputation management sub-strategies. All communication was backed by a comprehensive strategic process incorporating a continual loop of information provision, stakeholder/community consultation, feedback and adjustment.

It was implemented across three phases being:
» Stage 1 – pre-planning, issues scoping, stakeholder mapping
» Stage 2 - generate awareness/build understanding
» Stage 3 - build acceptance of disposal by asking for public feedback on draft land use options (see Appendix A).

The Project Team :

  • »ontinually provided information regarding the Study process/progress/findings to diverse stakeholders
  • frequently consulted with key stakeholders to gainviews regarding the site’s heritage/cultural/indigenous values; and possible land use alternatives
  • created opportunities for broad community input to ensure issues were fed into options  evelopment
  • implemented a comprehensive program to reach residents over five months
  • proactively monitored/addressed intense media coverage
  • harnessed community feedback from the formation of a Community Alliance – organised by Council and key community organisations; promotion of a Community Trust by the Mayor as the site’s only option; organisation of a ‘Save Kissing Point’ campaign led by an ex-Brigadier
  • worked within Defence parameters to meet operational/legislative/property disposal needs

Implementation: 

Phillips Group worked daily over five months with the Defence representative in Canberra to implement consultation and communication in Townsville. Regular contact was maintained (email, telephone calls, meetings) with project managers/environmental specialists (Townsville), heritage consultants (Canberra) and legal team (Brisbane). Fortnightly Townsville trips were taken for stakeholder meetings, public displays and to attend focus groups/Consultative Forums.

Stage 1: Pre-planning, Issues Scoping, Stakeholder Mapping (August 2005)

Strategic approach:

  1. Provide regular briefings to key stakeholders/information to the community to inform them about the Study process and proposed Defence site plans.
  2. Invite community/key stakeholders to input into the site’s future.
Tools
·         5 stakeholder meetings
·         75 enquiry line calls (Appendix A.9)
·         2,362 written submissions, 2 petitions (4,319 signatures) from reply paid facility (Appendix A.2)
·         57 website emails (Appendix A.6)
·         Media monitoring - 106 radio, 22 television, 101 newspaper clips (Appendix A.8)
Tactics
·         » Identify stakeholders – especially campaign leaders
·         » Clear, consistent messages
·         » Optimum avenues for feedback/comments

Stage 2: Generate Awareness and Build Understanding (August – November 2005)
Strategic approach:

  1. Engage/manage stakeholder/community inputs based on a collaborative, open, transparent process.
  2. Capture community/key stakeholder comments regarding the site.
Tools
·         4 one-on-one stakeholder meetings
·         Newsletter #1 (10,000) (Appendix A.3)
·         Tailored stakeholder letters
·         Advertisement #1 – full page Townsville Bulletin
·         5 media releases (Appendix A.5)
·         JBCF#1 - 24 stakeholders (Appendix A.10)
·         Heritage focus group - 14 members
·         2 indigenous focus groups
Tactics
  • Continue stakeholder updates
  • Maintain process-focus rather than personality/political debates
  • Promote community comments regarding future options

 Stage 3: Building Acceptance (November 2005 – Early 2006)
Strategic approach:

  1. Capture community/key stakeholder feedback regarding draft future options.
  2. Protect Defence/Study reputation through risk/issues management and ongoing media campaign to ensure factual information is available to all stakeholders
Tools
·         JBCF#2 (Appendix A.10)
·         Newsletter #2 - 61,500 copies (293 feedback forms) (Appendix A.3)
·         Full page newspaper advertisements #2 & #3 – Townsville Bulletin/Sun (Appendix A.4)
·         Staffed public displays (293 residents) (Appendix A.7)
·         Future Options Study report to Federal Government
·         Newsletter #3 - 61,500 copies (Appendix A.3)
Tactics
  • Maintain process focus
  • Provide correct information/updates via communication

Results: 

Evaluation: 

Evaluation and Results

Objective

Achievements
Degree of success
Objective 1
» managed all stakeholder/community inputs
» provided regular briefings/community information to all key stakeholders
» captured all community/ stakeholder comments in database
» incorporated all stakeholder input into Study and options development
HIGH:
» identified stakeholders consulted via variety of mechanisms
» wide range of targeted communication methods
» all feedback/comments captured in database/incorporated into site options development
Objective 2
Comprehensive database tracked/addressed
key issues:
» hotline (75 calls)
» emails (57 submissions)
» reply paid address (2,362 submissions)
» newspaper petition (3,809 signatures)
» Jezzine Alliance petition (510 signatures)
» 9 one-on-one meetings
» 1 heritage/2 indigenous focus groups
» 2 Consultative Forum meetings
HIGH:
» all stakeholder/community issues/concerns captured via variety of feedback mechanisms, tracked in a database, incorporated into option development
Objective 3
Investigative findings:
» 5 media stories
» 3 focus group reports
» all community ideas incorporated in options development
HIGH:
» all comments/input from heritage focus groups/environmental investigations incorporated into option development
Objective 4
» 1 newsletter (10,000) to residents/key stakeholders
» 2 newsletters (61,500) to residents and businesses - letterbox drops, Council
Chambers, libraries, public displays
» 3 full page newspaper advertisements (2 newspapers)
» 5 staffed/4 static public displays to reveal options for comment
» 2 JBCF meetings
» 9 one-on-one meetings with community leaders – Defence, Chamber of Commerce, industry peak body, environmental, military/heritage groups
» 1 heritage/2 indigenous focus groups
» 35 tailored stakeholder letters
» 7 media releases
» 3 letters to editor
HIGH:
» comprehensive range of communication tools/methods used to inform key stakeholders about the Study and draft options

The campaign was successful:

  • Key stakeholders were constantly informed about the Study/draft options via comprehensive communication methods and tools
  • Input from stakeholders – following intensive consultation – was considered in draft option development
  • Defence’s reputation as a key contributor to North Queensland’s economic prosperity was protected
  • Political sensitivity was managed
  • Identified stakeholders were harnessed as champions
  • Community relationships were established/nurtured
  • Media coverage moved from anti-Defence to more balanced reporting.