North East Corridor Extension Strategy

State planning strategies had determined that a general industrial area would be established in the North-East Corridor to give a better balance between jobs and population.

The Issue

State planning strategies had determined that a general industrial area would be established in the North-East Corridor to give a better balance between jobs and population. This became even more important with the development of new surrounding suburbs.

The Minister for Planning and Infrastructure announced an industrial site and highway alignment in January 2002. Due to environmental concerns raised, the Minister requested that community engagement be conducted to further assess the proposed industrial site location and identify an alternative location.

The Methodology

Multi Criteria Analysis Conference / Consensus Forum

A consensus forum was held on 9 March 2002 with invitations sent to stakeholder groups and a random sample of residents drawn from the electoral roll. In addition, advertisements were placed in the two community newspapers that service the area. A strong response was received. Participants comprised 20 stakeholder representatives, almost 30 random sample representatives and over 30 people who answered the advertisement.

Prior to the Forum
To help all participants understand the issues, a briefing package was written, with input from the stakeholder groups, and was sent to all forum participants to read before the first session.

Developing Options
There were seven location options presented to the Community Consultation Forum for consideration, including the Pearce Strategic General Industrial site, the site originally proposed by the North Eastern Corridor Extension Strategy (NECES). The six alternative options were drawn from suggestions made during the public submission period of the NECES. Two alternative options were also generated during the forum giving a total of nine options to be considered. The locations suggested by the community were presented for consideration in an unedited format

Day 1
The first forum convened on 9 March. Participants were seated at tables of 10 with a facilitator to assist with keeping the group on track and on time. The multi criteria analysis process was explained. This was followed by an explanation of a table outlining the opportunities and constraints of the various options as devised by a team of technical experts.

These were discussed within the small groups, using De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats as a means to encourage analytic processing (blue hat), separate factual information (white hat) from emotion and intuition (red hat), work through both the opportunities (yellow hat) and the constraints (black hat) and encourage creative thinking (green hat).

Using a Nominal Group Technique, each participant ranked the items in each column in order of importance from 8 = most important to 1 = least important. Individual scores were added to form a team score. The highest constraints and opportunities were then highlighted at the plenary.

Participants then determined the criteria, that is, the economic, social and environmental impacts that needed to be considered to judge the options.

A prioritisation matrix was created using each of the agreed criteria and the various options that had been developed.

Between Day 1 and Day 2 of the Forums
Participants were asked to discuss their priorities with family, friends and colleagues before submitting their matrix. Participants were asked to rank the sites according to how they performed against environmental, economic and social criteria.

Each option needed to be ranked in order of preference according to criterion 1, then criterion 2, until all the options had been assessed in terms of all the criteria.

Participants were asked to submit prioritisation matrices before the following session. However, they had the option to change their preferences at the final session, or to submit them if they had not done so earlier.

The rows were totalled to highlight the forum’s preferential ranking of the site options.

Day 2
The forum reconvened on 18 March 2002 and participants were given the opportunity to alter their previous rankings before the results were announced.

The final results indicated that an alternative site – the Sounness to Tiwest site was the community’s preferred option, followed by the Meat Industry Association’s (MIA) proposed location. The third preference was the East of Tiwest site, with the South-east of RAAF site being fourth.

However, no one site scored the highest on each of the social, environmental and economic criteria. For example, the site with the highest overall score, the Sounness to Tiwest site, was the most preferred site economically, and the second most preferred site socially, but not so highly ranked environmentally. The community was informed that a small technical expert group, with community representation, would examine the forum’s top four preferences with the aim of determining the preferred industrial site.

Follow-up Analysis
Each of the top four sites chosen by the community were analysed by seven representatives selected from relevant agencies including environment, transport and planning, local Councils and a community member. The criteria used were drawn from the State Planning Strategy.

Scoring was calculated individually and based on the total number of times that an option was rated first or last by each group member.

The analysis highlighted the East of Tiwest and the Sounness to Tiwest sites as being the most environmentally, economically and socially preferable options. There was not a clearly discernible preference between either of the sites.

Additional Analysis
In recognition that the prior analysis tended to be broad based and that there was a large amount of land included in the Sounness to Tiwest site, the group was reconvened with the aim of specifying the exact location for the node within this option.

This analysis included a site visit. The main points of interest were the swift topographical changes that occurred in the area from the Palus Plain to the clay soils, vegetation and comparisons to mapped vegetation, clay resource extraction areas, and identification of the flattest areas of land off the Palus Plain that were conducive to industrial development.

The Outcomes

The group unanimously identified a portion of land within the Sounness to Tiwest option as a potentially suitable location for the industrial site. The Department of Environment was satisfied that there were no fatal flaws associated with the proposed location. As the community forum rated the Sounness to Tiwest site as the preferred location, this option was acceptable to the community.


This issue was of intense interest and concern to the community. By engaging the community from the beginning of this process through to its conclusion, and ensuring their voice was heard throughout, the difficult decision of where to place the industrial node was accepted with little dissent.

Extraordinarily, there was no drop-off in participation from day one to day two of the forum. In part, this was because of the community interest in the issue, but also because the process thoroughly engaged them from day one through to its conclusion.

Some members of the community still felt they had insufficient information to prioritise each of the options against the criteria. The more rigorous, data and computer based Multi Criteria Analysis Conference (as used in the Freight Network Review) deals with this by asking community members only to devise the options, define the criteria and rank the importance of the criteria. The ‘expert’ group analyses the options against each criterion, using quantitative data where possible, and qualitative decisions where no other data is available.