Waste management has long recognised the importance of public acceptance in the success of any beneficial re-use of biowastes, but this has focused on public ‘education’, rather than public involvement in decision-making. There is also increasing recognition in the sector that the technical estimations of actual risk (technical) may not take into account the factors important to how individuals and communities may see risk.
CIBR researchers develop and implement a number of community engagement methods and have evaluated them for their ability to support integrated decision planning and improve science, policy and community engagement.
CIBR and LEI's joint Community Engagement Framework for the management of biowastes provides a clear and manageable process along with a pathway to decision-making that meets the requirements of the Resource Management Act, Local Government Act and the Treaty of Waitangi.
The framework utilises the Quadruple Bottom Line approach to decision-making where environmental, social, cultural and economic factors are thoroughly considered and outlines how two-way communication can be facilitated by interactive stakeholder workshops, hui or public meetings.
The framework also includes a mechanism to identify issues of local significance, as well as diverse community concerns and interests through two-way dialogue. It allows regulators, technicians, engineers, council staff, elected members and community members to identify the key ‘community’ values that a technical solution will need to align with, as well as to elicit relevant knowledge from the community.
If people have a greater understanding of a complex issue and have been involved in a positive process they may be less likely to contest the decision in future.
There is a need for sustainable biowaste management solutions that recognise complex environmental, social, cultural and economic relationships at a catchment or regional scale. The Community Engagement Framework helps address this complexity by eliciting relevant environmental, social, cultural and economic knowledge; enabling shared understanding between different stakeholders; and strengthening council and community relationships, which can build greater trust and confidence in the decision-making process.
The framework brings 15 years of expertise from leading edge research and technical experience to produce an easy to follow step by step process to community engagement following a quadruple bottom line approach.