Stakeholder and Community Engagement Plan for Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme, 2019

Toowoomba Regional Council, Qld

What was this project about?

Toowoomba Regional Council is required to review its planning scheme every 10 years, requiring review of the 2012 Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme which replaced individual planning schemes for the eight local govenment areas that now make up the Council area.

In early 2018, Council engaged Engagement Plus to develop a draft Community and Stakeholder Engagement Plan in accordance with Council’s Community Engagement Policy, IAP2 framework and the State Government’s Community Engagement Toolkit for Planning.

Engagement Plus planned and undertook the stakeholder and community engagement program in Phase 2 of the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme Review Project in January to August 2019.

What we needed to do

This phase of the review included the engagement of a broad range of stakeholders and the wider community to seek feedback on a number of matters that are instrumental to the review and consideration of future policy.

With a wide diversity of stakeholders across the Council’s region, this program was challenging due to the complexity of the topics and the breadth of the activities including reaching a diverse range of rural communities over the engagement phase and designing suitable communications tools to help public understanding of the technical aspects of Planning Scheme.

With a request to understand what is important for future development in the rural communities, not just in the dominant urban area of the region, feedback was sought from nine towns throughout the region plus two urban locations. Key stakeholder groups were also targeted including development industry, business, consultants, developers and councillors and staff.

The stakeholder and community engagement program were centred around seeking feedback on five key matters with the intention to seek feedback on a number of policy positions that Council had identified as important to retain, review or were policy gaps that needed to be filled. The State Planning framework was used with five policy areas as the key themes for the engagement program. Topics explored along with the five key themes included regional identity and values for townships and the whole region, zoning calibration and identifying areas where the current zooming did not align with community expectations, and feedback from those regular users of the planning scheme on what works and what doesn’t work well with the planning scheme.

The engagement program provided multiple face to face opportunities including pop-up stalls and markets, network meetings, Appreciate Inquiry workshops in 10 regional centres, targeted focus groups, community panel, digital mapping tool (Social Pinpoint) using six different methods, and Youth Week interviews as well as Have Your Say website and postcards.

Data from all the engagement activities was collated and classified, with most classifiable data resulting from the Appreciative Inquiry workshops.

What was achieved

Engagement Plus developed a report of the detailed findings along the lines of the five key themes that were the scope of the planning scheme review engagement to inform Council to review their planning scheme.

The broad reach across multiple demographic groups and tangible contributions on policy matters will guide future changes to the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme.