Through the successful implementation of a well researched, thorough communications plan, Stockland successfully turned around significant community, media and Government scrutiny into support for a major rehabilitation project on the doorstep of Fremantle.
Stockland sought to proactively communicate the details of a remediation plan associated with the clean up and rehabilitation of the former ANI Bradken foundry site – a small portion the overall South Beach development adjacent to Fremantle in Western Australia.
As part of a comprehensive and ongoing community consultation program, Stockland prepared a communication plan that was distributed to key external stakeholders and interested members of the local community.
A wide range of communication initiatives were implemented from March to December 2006 to provide the local community and other key stakeholders with the latest information on the remediation of the site. These initiatives include community site visits, monthly newsletters, advertisements and web based updates.
At the completion of the project, key stakeholders praised the remediation project and associated communications and suggested that the project be used as a best practice example for other rehabilitation projects around the country. Negative media was successfully avoided and some of the brand damage gained over the past two years was repaired.
As part of the overall South Beach development in North Coogee, the former ANI Bradken site forms a small part (2.2ha) of the project (19.9ha) and offers a rare opportunity to rehabilitate the environmental legacy of a smelter from a bygone area.
This small portion of the project is located on absolute beachfront land, adjacent to South Beach in Fremantle. Since 2004, Stockland has been subject to significant media and therefore Government scrutiny because of negative commentary created by protest group “Save South Beach”.
The protest group took Supreme Court action in an effort to stop the rehabilitation of the ANI site. After a number of reviews of the proposed Environmental Management Plan (EMP), the remediation works were approved by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).
Leading up to the commencement of remediation works, there was significant media coverage in local community press and The Sunday Times claiming adverse health risks to local residents from dust that would created from the remediation works. (1)
Stockland had an opportunity to turn around this negativity by implementing a transparent communications plan that ensured all members of the local community had full details of the extensive management systems in place to ensure no dust was created from the site.
By successfully engaging members of the local community, local councils and the DEC, the remediation project would be completed smoothly, on time with minimal media coverage.
In order for Stockland to receive the required development approvals to proceed with developing the site after the remediation was complete, any negative media needed to be minimised to avoid further scrutiny by government departments involved in the approvals process. The cost to Stockland if the development did not go ahead was in the millions of dollars. Effective communications strategy was necessary to achieve the required outcome and needed to be carefully thought through and researched to be effective.
As part of the approved Environmental Management Plan for the remediation works, Stockland had to comply with a minimum standard of community consultation.
The Community Consultation guidelines prepared by the DEC were thoroughly reviewed, with the project team adding additional communication initiatives not required by the guidelines in order to exceed expectations of key stakeholders.
Communication initiatives conducted for similar remediation projects were also reviewed, with the best ideas taken on board and the ideas that didn’t work so well being discarded.
Thought was given as to the best methods of reaching local community members and adjacent landowners, and it was agreed that multiple communication initiatives would be required to have the required cut through and to ensure all stakeholders were adequately informed.
Combined with feedback from key stakeholders on what level of communications they would see as ideal throughout the works, this enabled the communications team to finalise a plan that met the needs of each stakeholder group.
As the project is on the boundary of the City of Cockburn and City of Fremantle, both local governments needed to be proactively engaged to ensure smooth approvals and avoid Council members weighing in to any debate about the quality of the remediation work with the local community.
The three government departments targeted were the Department for Planning and Infrastructure (DPI), Department of Environment and Conversation (DEC) and the Department of Health (DoH). These regulatory bodies are required to sign off on completion of the remediation works, and this sign off is critical to receiving development approval for the project.
The local community included adjacent landowners, local residents association, local businesses and other local residents with an interest in the project.
Local papers, the Fremantle Herald and the Fremantle Gazette were the key media targeted for this communications plan as 99% of all media coverage, negative and positive is received from these two papers.
State based print media was avoided deliberately to avoid broader scrutiny.
As a publicly listed company, internal stakeholders such as Corporate Affairs in head office, the CEO and other key internal staff members needed to be aware of the plan as previous protest group communications had been directed at the CEO level.
The communications plan was met with scepticism by the State Government, media and local community who all agreed the plan was very comprehensive but doubted that the initiatives stated would be implemented as promised.
This offered Stockland the opportunity to rebuild brand damage received by the negative publicity to date and to foster stronger working relationships with all of its key stakeholders by seeing the plan through.
The following strategies were shared with the relevant government departments to give them a full understanding of Stockland’s commitment to keeping the community and other stakeholders informed.
To regularly and proactively engage key stakeholders throughout the remediation process.
Meet with key staff from the Department of Environment & the Department of Health to seek feedback and support of communication plan.
Conduct regular site tours with key staff from the City of Fremantle and City of Cockburn throughout the program.
Brief relevant State Government politicians and departmental authorities prior to remediation commencement.
To engage with local and general media to generate a balanced profile of the project.
Brief editors from Community Newspaper Group and Fremantle Herald prior to remediation commencement on communication plan.
Generate series of accurate and informative media releases regarding progress of the project.
To keep the local community informed throughout the lead-up and after the remediation works as to the status of the program.
Distribute a series of newsletters on a monthly basis to over 6000 local residences covering relevant aspects of the remediation combined with other general community information relating to the site.
Distribute weekly updates to immediate residents containing dust management results.
To update southbeachvillage.com.au website to include a dedicated page on the clean up including dust management reports and status of site works.
Conduct information sessions prior to remediation commencement at a convenient location for the local community.
Place project update advertisements in local community newspapers on a fortnightly basis.
To offer the local community opportunities to give Stockland feedback on the program and to voice any concerns.
Establish group of community representatives to be briefed on site on a regular basis on the progress of the remediation.
Promote hotline and e-mail directed to the
environmental consultants responsible for
the management of the remediation.
Give local community members the opportunity to provide feedback at information sessions prior to remediation commencement.
Invite feedback on the program at site briefings to a group of nominated community representatives.
Offer contact details of Site Superintendent
responsible for monitoring the site works.
To actively and consistently communicate key messages.
Convey key messages through various communication tools to the local community.
Effectively communicate key
messages to key stakeholders.
Regular progress meetings with DEC
DEC were engaged throughout the lead up, during and after the remediation works to provide detail on community feedback, site works and air monitoring.
A community newsletter was developed and distributed on a monthly basis from March 2006 until the remediation works were completed and signed off by the relevant regulatory bodies. (2)
The newsletter was a factual communication tool offering the opportunity to explain key processes as part of the clean up in easy to understand terms and provide contact information for local community members should they have further queries or concerns.
It also offers the opportunity for Stockland to communicate other key initiatives being undertaken on the project such as public art and the history of the site.
The southbeachvillage.com.au website has been operational since the inception of the project in 2003. Under the menu heading of South Beach and Sustainability, it contained pages on Environmental Management, Community Consultation and Planning and Works.
A new page was added under the menu heading called “ANI Site Clean Up”. This page hosted the latest information on the remediation program including copies of all newsletters and dust monitoring results. (3)
An enquiry line previously set up for comments on the Environmental Management Plan was re-activated. All calls were logged and a report provided to Stockland within 24 hours of the call being received.
Signage was erected on site prior to the commencement of remediation works offering the details of the site superintendent and/or information hotline.
Monthly Site Visits with Key Stakeholder Group
Stockland invited nominated representatives from the local community and other key stakeholders to take part in a series of site tours throughout the program.
The tours were conducted on site on a monthly basis by Stockland’s Project Manager, a representative from ENV Australia and the Site Superintendent.
The tours offer key community representatives direct access to the project team and the opportunity to express any concerns or deliver any feedback to Stockland on behalf of the wider community.
Project update advertisements
Advertisements summarising the site works being undertaken as part of the remediation program were placed in the Fremantle Herald and Fremantle/Cockburn Gazette local papers on a fortnightly basis.
The advertisements contained contact information and website details should the reader require further details. (4)
Media releases were distributed as and when required by Stockland to provide the local media with an update on the progress of the clean up and to promote any key initiatives implemented as part of the South Beach project. The releases clearly communicated the agreed key messages developed at the outset. (5)
Fact sheets were distributed to all residents within the immediate vicinity of the site on a weekly basis starting 3 weeks prior to remediation commencement.
The fact sheets outlined the status of the works and dust management reports after verification from the Department of Environment. (6)
Copies of newsletters, frequently asked questions and contact details for further information were made available from the South Beach sales office.
At the final site visit with the group of key stakeholders, each participant was asked to complete a questionnaire providing feedback on the whole project, including the communications.
Previous vocal opponents to the project were surprised but pleased with the way the project was handled, both from a site works perspective and a communications perspective.
It was suggested by both the independent auditor overseeing the project and members of the local community that the communications plan be used as best practice for other projects of it’s kind. (7)
Negative media coverage was effectively minimised.
|To regularly and proactively engage key stakeholders throughout the remediation process.||
Regular meetings were held with key senior staff from the DEC to maintain open dialogue and provide updates on the progress of the plan. The DEC were very responsive and positive at these meetings and at the end felt comfortable that we were handling the process very well.
Key staff and council members from the City of Cockburn and City of Fremantle were invited to participate and attended the monthly site visits. Feedback from these stakeholders was very positive.
The Chief of Staff from the Minister for Planning’s office, and the Minister for Environment were briefed directly on the plan at the outset to ensure full awareness in the event of negative publicity that sought their comment.
|To engage with local and general media to generate a balanced profile of the project.||
Editors from Community Newspaper Group and Fremantle Herald were briefed prior to remediation commencement on communication plan. A Positive response was received on the plan and the editors and key journalists were sent copies of all communications throughout the project.
Stockland then obtained opportunities for
|To keep the local community informed throughout the lead-up, during and after the remediation works as to the status of the program.||
The full series of communication tools as outlined previously were implemented as scheduled and resulted in minimal enquiries from local community members.
Key community members who attended the monthly site visits were given detailed information on the progress of the project. These community members then relayed the information to others in the community, spreading the correct information rather than having to rely on assumptions and fabrications.
|To offer the local community opportunities to give Stockland feedback on the program and to voice any concerns.||
Feedback was encouraged at monthly site visits from local community members. Specific feedback then evaluated and where possible incorporated to ensure communications remained relevant to the target public.
In all print communications, the mobile number of our Site Operations Officer was published to ensure any feedback or issues could be relayed to a site representative who could address the issues immediately. This relationship proved to be invaluable and established a bond between the community and the company.
|To actively and consistently communicate key messages.||
The key messages established at the outset were maintained in all communications.
This ensured a consistent response to all media and community enquiry.
Overall the communications plan was implemented as outlined and promised to our key stakeholders. The first hurdle was delivering the plan as promised, which showed commitment on Stockland’s behalf of keeping the local community and other stakeholders informed.
Secondly, Stockland went from gaining negative media coverage almost every week in local print media to almost nothing throughout the remediation project.
Finally, vocal opponents to the project ended up supporters and Stockland regained their confidence to deliver on time and as committed with minimal impacts on the local community.
Since the completion of the remediation, Stockland has received its Development Approval from the Western Australian Planning Commission in record time with no media coverage or attention from the protest group.