Coffs Harbour City Council is the first Council in Australia to engage with its community through the PLACESCORE survey tool to capture what people really value about living here at a neighbourhood level right across the entire local government area – and last week we were recognised for this innovative approach by winning the Local Government NSW (LGNSW) Award for Culture Change Innovation/Excellence for a large regional area for the second year running.
The PLACESCORE project involved extensive, locally-focused community engagement throughout the area between November 2018 and February 2019.
Using PLACESCORE we were able to establish what aspects of the area residents value the most and how well their own neighbourhoods live up to these values.
The highest valued aspect was ‘Elements of the Natural Environment’. This includes features such as landscapes, views, vegetation, topography, water and wildlife. Also, identified in the top five most important place qualities was ‘Protection of the Natural Environment’.
This echoes what residents have told us many times before – that they want development growth to be concentrated in key urban centres to protect the local environment. This is known as the Compact City Program.
The Compact City Program aims to promote ‘infill’ residential development in existing urban areas with mixed land uses to offer varied accommodation options, alongside efficient public transport and transport networks that encourage walking, cycling, low energy consumption and reduced pollution.
Our draft Local Growth Management Strategy, which is currently being put out for community consultation in easy-to-understand separate chapters, is designed to deliver this Compact City Program.
PLACESCORE has given us – for the first time – a measurable benchmark to diagnose problems, identify priorities and measure change at the neighbourhood level to understand what we are doing well and where there is room for improvement.
It will also allow us to measure the visitor experience in different locations for the first time, which can provide further insights for our tourism and events industry. As well as helping facilitate key projects such as the planned Integrated Transport Strategy for Coffs Harbour.
The PLACESCORE survey results will now underpin informed decision-making about priorities and measure return on investment.
The consultation also gave us valuable lessons in relation to effective tools for engagement, such as the offer of a free coffee at local cafés. This engagement tool was so successful, there was often a line of people waiting outside local cafes for Council staff to arrive!
Pictured above are Council’s Local Planning Team with their Local Government NSW (LGNSW) Award for Culture Change Innovation/Excellence. Left to right: Marcy Mills, Jennifer Torrance, Tim Ruge, Melanie Green, Sarah Parbery, Marten Bouma and Sharon Smith.