Project, 2015–

Liveable Yarra People’s Panel

Client, Yarra City Council

What would your recommendations be about the future of your city if you had the opportunity to work with your Council to learn about, and deliberate, planning outcomes? This was the challenge that the Yarra City Council took up to help make decisions about the Yarra Planning Scheme – the document underpinning planning decisions for the municipality.

Yarra City Council’s central dilemma is shared with most local governments – how to plan for change and growth whilst balancing the many hopes and expectations of new and existing communities. To overcome this challenge, Liveable Yarra commissioned Capire Consulting Group and associate Max Hardy, to design and deliver a deliberative engagement process: The Liveable Yarra ‘People’s Panel’.

The People’s Panel members represented the diverse demographics of the Yarra community. The Panel met over four Saturdays to learn, work with each other and with Council officers on identifying the planning dilemmas facing the city, and to develop recommendations for how Council should face these dilemmas. The process has captured a fair representation of the diverse views of the community and an opportunity to share these different perspectives in a respectful and constructive environment.

Panel meetings were supported by supplementary workshops with Council’s pre-existing Advisory Committees and targeted workshops with community groups considered hard, or important, to reach and are not heard from. Reports from each workshop were prepared for the Panel members to aid in their deliberation. The collaborative work between Council officers and community was seen to generate more sophisticated outcomes for planning policy, better relationships between participants and Council, and increased capacity to understand the perspectives and concerns of others.

The Panel collaboratively developed 30 recommendations to Council when considering the Planning Scheme re-write. These recommendations have been adopted by Council, and based on the positive outcomes of the project, a Liveable Yarra Reference Group was established to ensure that the recommendations continue to play an important part in the Planning Scheme re-write.