Usually a requirement for government and local authority decision making, in particular as a requirement of the Local Government Act, good practice public consultation incorporates both the asking for feedback on a concept, and integrated information disclosure.
The two parts of the process are vital tools for managing two-way communication between the project initiator or sponsor, the public and other people who will be affected by the project.
Asking for feedback:
- Helps the project sponsor to identify the issues that concern the public
- Helps identify the issues that may be perceived in a negative light
- Provides feedback from the stakeholders as to potential remedies concerning these issues
- Raises awareness of the impacts of a project, and helps the project sponsor to develop technical and management approaches that will maximise benefits and reduce negative consequences.
Information disclosure supports public consultation by:
- Providing information about the benefits and disadvantages of the project, early enough to allow time for people to think about the issues and weigh the trade offs
- Enabling people to make informed judgements about changes that will affect their lives
- Stimulating discussion and debate that will assist the project sponsor to review and modify aspects of the project if necessary to enhance the public outcome
- Developing public expectations of an outcome that is based on fact, rather than allowing rumour and speculation to determine public views.
Benefits of good practice public consultation and information disclosure
When people are asked for their views and when their needs are considered, they become more interested, tolerant and willing to accept change.
An informed public will better understand the trade-off between project costs, benefits and disadvantages. This understanding will increase the viability of the project and enhance its benefits.
Effective public consultation will achieve
- Reduced financial risk, (from delays, legal disputes, and negative publicity),
- Direct cost savings, and
- Enhanced social benefits to local communities.