Albany Administration Centre Site

The Albany City Council requested a rezoning of land to relocate the Albany administration building approximately 1.4 km from the centre of Albany’s Central Business District.

The Issue

The Albany City Council requested a rezoning of land to relocate the Albany administration building approximately 1.4 km from the centre of Albany’s Central Business District. After considering the request, the WA Planning Commission recommended to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure that she refuse to grant final approval of the rezoning amendment.

Albany City Council Position
The arguments presented by the Albany City Council rejecting the location of the administrative centre within the CBD were as follows:

  • development on the current site in York St was incompatible with their proposals for a Regional Cultural Centre, expansion of library facilities and recognition of possible Aboriginal Heritage issues;
  • the cost of acquisition and lack of availability of privately owned land of suitable size; and
  • sites other than York St not providing a prominent CBD focus.

WA Planning Commission Position
The arguments presented by the WA Planning Commission refusing approval of the Amendment were as follows:

  • the request was inconsistent with the Council’s endorsed Commercial Strategy which sought to strengthen the CBD;
  • Council had not demonstrated conclusively that there were no practical or affordable locations for the administration building in the CBD; and
  • there was considerable public opposition to the location of the administration centre outside the CBD.

Agreement to a Deliberative Process
The final decision was now in the hands of the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. The Minister noted that Council did consult with the community, but was concerned about whether real community engagement had occurred, and that the community remained divided over the issue. Albany Council had refused an earlier offer by the State to jointly engage the community in a process of further examining a broad range of potential sites. To make a determination on this issue, the Minister decided to find out what a truly representative, informed group of Albany citizens would recommend it they had the opportunity to understand all the information and the time to deliberate. To this end, she recommended that a Citizens’ Jury be held.

Albany Council agreed to participate in the process, although they decided not to sign the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the Department for Planning and Infrastructure and Council, outlining each party’s rights and responsibilities in the Citizens’ Jury process.

Methodology – Citizens’ Jury

Process – Prior to the Jury Proceedings

Determination of the Jury’s Brief
Given the lack of agreement between the Albany City Council and the WA Planning Commission, there was considerable negotiation before both parties agreed to a brief for the jury. It was as follows:

Is it fundamental to Albany to have the administrative centre within the central business district (CBD), or do the advantages of the proposed administrative centre in North Road outweigh any disadvantages of it being outside the city centre?

Selection of the Steering Group
The Steering Group was selected to represent all the stakeholders in the debate. It was chaired by the local MP and had representatives from the City Council, Chamber of Commerce, Minister’s Office, Department for Planning and Infrastructure, and lobby groups for and against the proposed site. The task of the small Steering Group was to oversee the process through to completion, ensuring its transparency, accountability and responsiveness to the local community.

The Group met over a two month period, during which time they selected the Expert Witnesses, oversaw the development of the jury’s introductory package, the process for recruiting of jurors and the hearings, and determined guidelines for marketing and media management.

Selection and Recruitment of the Citizens’ Jury
The Jury was selected through a process of random sampling. The WA Electoral Commission provided a random sample of 600 residents living in the Albany region. Invitations from the Minister were sent to the 600 strong sample, asking them to participate in a Citizens’ Jury on the selection of the site for the Albany administration centre. Of those, 92 responded positively, and a further random sample was carried out to select the final 17 jurors.

There was some discussion at the Steering Group to determine if the sample should be stratified to ensure equal representation, eg by gender, location, age, occupation. However, the Steering Group decided to rely solely on random sampling to attain a good mix of jurors.

The jurors were made up of eight men and nine women from different locations throughout the Albany, including the central business district, urban residential, semi rural residential and rural locations. The composition of the jury reflected a comprehensive mix of occupations as well as variation in ages (though there were no jurors under the age of 25) and in the duration of time living in Albany.

Recruitment of a Facilitator
The facilitator was experienced in conducting Citizens’ Juries and had no interest in the outcome of the proceedings.

Selection of Questions and Expert Witnesses
The Steering Group carried out possibly its most contentious task of selecting questions and expert witnesses to ensure the jury was presented with all the available data and viewpoints. The expert witnesses were those with knowledge or experience of the issues who could provide the jury with sufficient information to enable them to deliberate productively. Because the hearings were to be completed on the one day, the numbers of expert witnesses had to be limited. It was suggested that any more than eight witness presentations would occupy too much of the jury’s deliberation time.

After several meetings of the Steering Group, eight expert witnesses were selected. The aim was to ensure all view points were represented, not all stakeholder groups. The witnesses included two from other Councils in the State, one that moved their administration centre into the central business district and the other that had an administration centre outside the CBD but a shop front within.

Development of Introductory Material
The Steering Group worked together to produce an introductory package for the jurors. It consisted of a description of the Citizens’ Jury process, the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties, a paper outlining the points of agreement between the Albany Council and WA Planning Commission, and two separate papers, one outlining the WA Planning Commission’s position and the other, the City of Albany’s position.

The Introductory package was posted to the jurors 10 days before the jury hearings. Jurors were asked to read the papers before the Introductory Session to be held on the Thursday evening before the Saturday’s hearings.

A second package of information, the expert witness presentations, was also sent to jurors. However, due to postage delays, some jurors only received this package at the introductory session.

The names of the jurors were not made public, indeed they were not known to either the Steering Group or any of the expert witnesses. It was suggested to jurors that for their own comfort (to avoid any potential lobbying) they not let others know of their selection.

Conducting of the Jury Introductory Session
The jury introductory session, a three hour meeting, was held privately in non aligned premises. During the session, jurors got to know one another, discussed the issues and format for the one day hearing, and formulated additional questions to ask the expert witnesses. The expert witnesses were the key stakeholders in the issue as well as those with relevant information or experience, chosen by the Albany Administration Centre Steering Group.

It was agreed to give the expert witnesses forewarning of the likely questions to be asked on the day by the Jury. The aim was to give witnesses sufficient time to prepare clear and concise responses.

The format for the hearings agreed to by the jurors was for each juror who nominated to play a part in the questioning of expert witnesses. It was agreed that there would be opportunities during the hearings to create new questions to ask of expert witnesses and to delete any questions already answered. Jurors also worked on an initial list of criteria that they could use to evaluate the two options.

Process – during the Jury Proceedings

Examination of Expert Witnesses
The Jury hearing, held on the Saturday, commenced at 9.00am and ended at 6.15pm The morning sessions, consisting of the presentations and questioning of the expert witnesses, were watched by a participative audience of approximately 100 people. The afternoon session of jury deliberation was held in camera. The audience returned at 6.00pm for the announcement of the jury recommendations.

During the morning sessions, eight Expert Witnesses presented to the jury in two sessions. The Council and WA Planning Commission representatives had 15 minutes, all other witnesses had 10 mins to present the issue they had been asked to discuss.

Following the first four presentations, jurors asked a series of questions of the expert witnesses. The audience was also given the opportunity to assist the jurors by asking additional questions. Audience questions were put in a box, discussed by jurors and only those useful to their deliberations were chosen by the jury and put to the expert witnesses. During the second session of four presentations, the individual members of the jury put questions to the expert witnesses. The final session of the morning included direct questioning of the eight expert witnesses by the audience.

Jury Deliberations

Agreement to the Decision-Making Process
Jurors discussed their decision making process and reaffirmed that they would use a multi-criteria analysis method. This would involve agreement to the criteria upon which to base the decision, weighting of each criterion according to its importance, discussion of each option according to each criterion, scoring of each option based on the available data, then using the weighted score to determine the preferred option.

The jurors agreed that once a decision was made about either the CBD or North Road, that they would like to put forward a number of recommendations for consideration.

It was agreed that the timeframe all jurors would use in their deliberations would be 10-25 years.

a) Agreement to the Criteria
The jury deliberations began with discussion of the evaluation criteria to be used by the jury to judge each of the options. Suggestions of potential evaluation criteria from the Steering Team were also discussed. Four criteria were agreed to:

  • Vibrancy of the CBD
  • Civic vision
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Accessibility

b) Weighting the Criteria
The jurors were asked to weight each of the four criteria in order of importance, with the total equalling 100.

The juror’s individual weightings were then calculated against the criteria and averaged. The following weightings resulted: Vibrancy (34.3%), Civic Vision (23.3%), Cost Effectiveness (23.1%) and Accessibility (19.2%).

c) Discussing the Options against the Criteria
The jurors formed four small working groups to research and discuss the data, advantages and disadvantages of the two options as measured against one of the criteria. Each group then relayed its information back to the whole jury for broad discussion. Following the discussion, the options were scored against that criterion.

d) Choosing the Preferred Option
Each of the options was scored against each of the criteria. These scores were then multiplied by the weighting for that criterion (The criteria weights are outlined on the top row of the table below). The table below gives the weighted scores for each option against each criterion.

Final Analysis
Prioritisation Matrix – Weighting Analysis
Vibrancy Civic Vision Cost Effectiveness Accessibility  
34.3% 23.3% 23.1% 19.2%
Prioritisation Matrix – Final Analysis with consideration to Criteria weighting
Vibrancy Civic Vision Cost Effectiveness Accessibility Total
North Rd 16.95% 11.87% 18.20% 11.12% 58.14%
CBD 17.38% 11.46% 4.94% 8.08% 41.86%


The above Table indicates that North Rd was the preferred option. While it was not a case of overwhelming support, it was clear that on two of the four criteria being used to evaluate the options – vibrancy and accessibility – North Rd was slightly preferred, and on one option – cost effectiveness – North Rd was clearly preferred. The CBD was only preferred on one option – city vision. The final preference scoring was 58% for North Rd and 42% for the CBD

The jury then considered the preferred option – North Rd – and how jurors felt about the outcome. While some jurors were pleased with the outcome and others were disappointed, all agreed to abide by the final result. The jury then worded their recommendation and added several additional recommendations jurors felt were important for the Albany Council as well as the Minister to consider and take on board.

The jury felt it was important that the Council act upon the series of commitments it had outlined in its presentations, including the revitalisation of the York St site, the CBD shop front and the park land setting for the proposed North Rd site. The jury also made additional recommendations about improving public transport to the CBD and North Rd, and the prioritisation of the development of Yakamia Drive.

Jury Recommendation

The jury was asked to consider the following charge: Is it fundamental to Albany to have the administrative centre within the central business district, or do the advantages of the proposed administrative centre in North Road outweigh any disadvantages of it being outside the city centre?

The result of the jury deliberations and decision making process is that the advantages of the proposed administration centre in North Road outweigh any disadvantages of it being outside the city centre.

The jury recommends:

  1. That the council be charged with revitalising the York Street site as a matter of urgency. This was clearly stated by councillors as an undertaking that had their unanimous support.
  2. That the council proceed with a CBD shop front in conjunction with the building of the new administration centre.
  3. That public transport options to the CBD and North Road be improved.
  4. That the Yakamia Drive development be given priority and incorporated with the North Road administration development.
  5. When the administration centre is built at North Road that a parkland setting be developed at the same time.
  6. That the citizens jury process be implemented for major decision making in the future, in particular for controversial issues.

Presentation of the Jury Recommendations
The jury presented their recommendations to the Steering Group. It was agreed that one juror would be the key speaker, but others would comment. The Steering Group expressed their appreciation for the jury’s work. On behalf of the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Peter Watson, MLA for Albany, then presented the results and recommendations to members of the public and media.

It was announced that the Minister would make her decision on the rezoning early the following week.

Response to the Jury Recommendations
The Minister agreed to approve the rezoning in line with the jury’s recommendation.

Noting the jurors’ additional recommendations, the Minister suggested to the Albany Council to jointly engage in a public Enquiry-by-Design process to determine how to holistically combine the various developments proposed for the city of Albany.

A Jury Report of the process and proceedings was circulated to jurors. The jurors made corrections. The Report was then sent to the Minister and the other stakeholders in the process.