The politicisation of projects is seen as a major challenge by infrastructure professionals of all disciplines and recent investor surveys have demonstrated that public policy uncertainty is a source of concern for investors.

During our early phases of work participants identified the following key challenges:

Policy uncertainty

Both the National Survey and Workshop results confirm that policy uncertainty is seen as a major inhibitor to successful project delivery and to attracting private sector investment.

Project politicisation

Politicisation detracts from community engagement practitioners’ ability to focus on and deliver best practice. For example, respondents reported that projects are often announced without consultation or a business case because politics focuses on announcements and the next election rather than genuine engagement.

Benchmarking via compliance

Aims of going ‘beyond compliance’ are de rigueur for most project developers today. Our early findings suggest, however, that community engagement would benefit from stronger regulatory or policy structures to support best practice.

In the words of one workshop group, ‘[There are] no legislative “must-dos”, i.e. like safety and environment, only EIS consultation requirements,’ making the need for better policy guidance critical.

They also wanted answers on the following questions:

  • What are the key social and policy drivers necessary to foster policy stability for infrastructure delivery? What role can community engagement play in this process?
  • To what extent could the timing, approach or extent of community engagement act as a counter to challenges stemming from project politicisation?
  • What are the critical policy levers for reducing backflips and encouraging greater consistency across jurisdictions, especially in light of increasingly complex national projects?
  • How can infrastructure policy and regulation become more engagement-focused? What would that process entail and what would such policy look like?
  • What would effective regulation, incorporating best practice community engagement to achieve on-time, on-budget infrastructure delivery look like? What existing models, nationally and internationally, show promise and could be adopted or adapted?

What are the burning issues for you on this topic? Do you agree with your colleagues?

Is there a challenge that should be added to the list in terms of how engagement could be better supported through policy and regulation?

Would addressing these key questions help you to improve community and project outcomes?

Is there a question that should be added to the list which would better assist you in improving community and project outcomes?

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