The West Coast has some of Tasmania’s most stunning natural features, and is also home to much of the state’s mining activity. Mining is the largest employer, employing around 39% of West Coasters, with tourism second at 15%. Mining in Tasmania is subject to down turns in world prices, which sometimes bring mine closures, unemployment and difficult times to the West Coast. The West Coast Council area is small in population but large in geographical area, which although beautiful, is also quite a drive for visitors to get to. These are the challenges and the opportunities relevant to the people of the West Coast and their council. This story will show how the whole community and the council came together to meet these challenges.
Figure 1. The West Coast Council area is rich in natural beauty
Impacted by a recent downturn in mining and by a period of change in elected members and management at West Coast Council – there was a need for the council to provide leadership and guidance to the community. There was a strong desire within the community and the council to create a genuinely shared vision for the West Coast, and so the process of developing the West Coast Community Plan 2025 was begun!
The West Coast Community Plan 2025 project became a multi-faceted, innovative community engagement process - which included the establishment of a designated online information portal, use of social media tools and extensive marketing.
A survey was distributed to every West Coast household and made available at public locations and online. A specific survey - targeting the opinions of visitors to the West Coast - was also distributed, via the West Coast Visitor Information Centre and by tourism businesses in the region.
In a six-week period West Coast Council delivered seven public workshops, five information stands in CBD areas and five summits across the region, to ensure as many West Coasters as possible were provided the opportunity to share their concerns and vision for the region. Working across key locations in the region, the summits covered the topics of:
Figure 2. The West Coast Community Plan 2025 involved intensive, extensive and very genuine consultation with the community.
The council partnered with West Coast schools, to incorporate project activities into classroom learning. Students were asked to create postcards describing the West Coast as they envisaged it would be in 2025.
Figure 3. Some of the post cards created by West Coast school students to help visualise the future of the region.
The council also consulted with a range of traditional key stakeholders at a regional and state level in more conventional ways.
The intensive engagement process and consultation phase was unlike anything the West Coast had been involved with before. The resulting West Coast Community Plan 2025 is a true reflection of what the West Coast needs - setting a unified direction for the community across five focus areas:
The West Coast Community Plan 2025 was genuinely created and developed by the community for the community. West Coast Council has committed to implementing the West Coast Community Plan 2025. The extensive participation of the West Coast community in planning their future and the open engagement between residents and elected members created a relationship which can be built on and used to achieve the vision of the Plan.
The consultation process brought the West Coast community and the West Coast Council closer together. The leadership, integrity, transparency, enthusiasm and respect displayed through the development process, will continue to be vital during the delivery of our shared plan.
Figure 4. One of the community engagement forums run by council, this one shows the Queenstown event; 40% of the whole west coast population participated directly in developing the Plan.