LEIGHTON RAIL MARSHALLING YARDS
LEIGHTON RAIL MARSHALLING YARDS
COMMUNITY CONSENSUS FORUM
16 March 2002
The Leighton Rail Marshalling Yards were located between the beach
and the railway line, north of the Fremantle Port. The site was long
and narrow, approximately 17 hectares in area. The natural landform had
been completely modified, having been leveled to accommodate buildings
and railway infrastructure. There was very little remaining vegetation.
In the late 1990s, a series of strategies and plans were released
outlining ways to connect transport, land use and Port planning,
connect parklands through the area, provide safer access to the beach,
and build a direct rail loop from the Port of Fremantle that would
enable redevelopment of the Leighton Rail Marshalling Yards site for
In the 1990s, under the Liberal Government, the government railways
entered into a joint venture for the development of the Marshalling
Yards. When the resulting Leighton Shores concept plan was released for
public consultation, it generated widespread and intense community
opposition. This concept plan proposed extensive residential
development (17 hectares) at Leighton. The net return expected from the
site was $30 million. Petitions were submitted to Parliament with
thousands of signatures. Issues raised included opposition about the
extent of urban development, access to the coast and environmental
The Liberal Government responded by requesting the preparation of
Regional Planning Guidelines to establish key parameters for
development of the site. Both the local governments and community
groups had input. The draft Guidelines proposed only a 4 hectare
development. When they were released for public comment, over 1800
submissions were received.
In December 2000, the Liberal Government supported the reduction in
development area from the original Leighton Shores proposal to the area
proposed in the Guidelines. Funding had not been allocated for
In order to fund this initiative, the incoming Labor Government
determined to engage the community to see if there was a "win-win"
solution that would enable the Leighton peninsula to be improved in a
manner that would be cost neutral to Government.
The Minister for Planning and Infrastructure established clear
- Any redevelopment would need to be cost neutral;
redevelopment involving the removal of the rail line to Fremantle Port
would need to include the replacement of a Rail Loop so the Port's
freight operations would not be jeopardised;
- The beach and adjacent coastal environment would be preserved and
accessible to the public;
- At least 60% of the 17 hectare site would be retained for public
The Consensus Forum is a method of engaging all key stakeholders in
the development of policy and input to the decision making process. The
key issues are explored using 'open book' information. Opportunities
are given to understand different viewpoints and to deliberate in small
groups. The focus is on the search for common ground. The findings
become integral to the decision making process.
Pre forum negotiations
The community action lobby group, the Leighton Action Coalition, was
highly concerned about the proposed community engagement. In their
view, Government needed to action the Guidelines without alteration.
After meeting with the Minister, they reluctantly agreed to participate.
- To understand the relevant issues (including planning, social,
economic and environmental),
determine a preferred implementation option for the redevelopment of
the site, putting the community at the heart of the decision-making
Approximately 115 people participated at the Forum including:
- Random Sample of residents, most from the area surrounding
Leighton Beach, others from the broad metropolitan area (40
- Petitioners (40 participants);
- Invited Stakeholders (45) including representatives from all the
major stakeholder groups.
Background information was sent to all participants to read before
the Forum. This included a summary of the "Leighton Regional Planning
Guidelines" document from December 2000, together with an aerial
photo/map of the study area. Participants were asked to familiarize
themselves with the site before the Forum.
At small tables of 10 participants, there was a mix of community,
business interests, state and local government representatives. Each
table was facilitated. All facilitators participated in a training
session to understand the agenda, the techniques to be used and their
role. Facilitators included Members of Parliament, CEOs of government
agencies, senior government officers and expert consultants.
The Day of the Forum
At the commencement of the Forum, the Minister for Planning and
Infrastructure, Hon. Alannah MacTiernan, welcomed participants,
outlined the background, and reiterated the parameters for the Forum
Participant expectations at the commencement of the Forum included
- Certainty and clear planning to move forward with implementation;
- Achieving a balanced development;
- Using the Guidelines as a basis for planning;
- Leaving sufficient open space for recreation and coastal
- Meeting the community's needs;
- Cleaning up the site and providing better facilities;
- Ensuring appropriate public access;
- Ensuring transport efficiency, retaining rail access to Port;
- Taking pressure off other beaches;
- Taking a long term view.
To ensure deliberation was informed, six short presentations were
made on the following topics:
- Leighton Regional Planning Guidelines - History and Process
- Community Perspective - Leighton Action Coalition
- Sustainability Principles
- Integrated Transport Issues
- Options and Costings
- Local Council Perspectives:
Presentations were followed by a panel discussion, with presenters
answering questions posed by participants
An empathetic listening session was carried out to encourage
participants to understand the differing viewpoints of the Leighton
Action Coalition and Sustainability Principles as promoted by
Government. This activity had minimal success as according to the
Leighton Action Coalition, their views represented sustainability
principles, and hence there were not two voices to be heard.
The sessions that followed were designed to enable participants to
develop additional options, understand the opportunities and
constraints of each option, determine the criteria for decision making
- social, economic and environmental, and prioritise the options
according to the agreed criteria.
Each participant was given a booklet and a worksheet that explained
comprehensively the infrastructure cost components, as well as the pros
and cons of the different options. Using the parameters already
established, individuals were asked to "go shopping" and create their
own options for the redevelopment of the site with combinations of the
- Rail Infrastructure
- Leighton Station
- Construction of a Direct Rail Loop to North Quay costs $9M
- Each hectare of development creates $3M of revenue (e.g. 4ha =
- Not constructing Curtin Ave reduces the revenue from development
by $1M (e.g. 4 ha = $11M).
Approximately 40 options were presented and recorded, ranging from
no development on the site to full development (i.e. 6.8 hectares).
Although participants were informed that, overall, the costs needed to
be equal to the income from development, many options did not meet this
criterion. Given the difficulty of managing this issue, the forum took
a consensus vote on which of the development scenarios to proceed with.
Individuals ranked their preferred options, giving 5 votes to their
most preferred option, 4 to their second most preferred option (etc),
down to 1 vote to their least preferred option.
The option with the strongest support at the Forum was for 4
hectares of development, no change to the current road
structure/function, rehabilitation of both the northern and southern
portions of the site, allowing for minimal stabilisation of the north
eastern portion of the marshalling yards, including seeding and some
planting. Without the construction of Curtin Avenue, the revenue from
the development would be $11M.
- In terms of planning, the Metropolitan Region Scheme (MRS)
needed to be amended to provide for the rail loop to the port and to
provide for a parks and a recreation reserve, the City of Fremantle
Town Planning Scheme needed to be amended to implement the urban zoning
- In terms of construction, planning for the rail loop needed to
- In terms of land development, including rehabilitation, plans
needed to be created, approved and implemented.
The issue was emotional. As a result of the earlier ambitious
redevelopment plans for the whole site, the public was very wary of
government intentions, even though this was a new Government. The
Leighton Action Coalition expressed great concern about holding a
community engagement initiative at all. In their view, it was
From the commencement of the Forum, their members ensured that any
serious deliberation of options other than their own was virtually
impossible. Although they were requested not to do so, as participants
entered the hall, members gave each person a Leighton Action Coalition
position paper and urged them to support it. They changed the mixed
seating arrangements at the table, threatened walk-outs, and circulated
from table to table with options and priorities.
It was hardly surprising that the end result would follow the
original Guidelines. Whether or not this was the most appropriate
outcome is not relevant to this particular discussion. What is relevant
is how open deliberation can be encouraged when the issue is emotive,
trust is low, and local lobby groups have only one option and no real
intention to deliberate.
This Forum brought to the fore the need to trial different
engagement methodologies if the whole community is to be represented
and given an equal opportunity to be heard. One way of achieving this
is for the role of the single issue, local action group to change to
that of local 'experts'. In this role, they would inform, clearly
stating their position, but would leave the ensuing deliberations and
search for common ground to a representative random sample of the
community. Methods that achieve this include Citizens' Juries,
Consensus Conferences and Deliberative Surveys.