Copyright Janette Hartz-Karp - 16 March 2011
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REID HIGHWAY EXTENSION

REID HIGHWAY EXTENSION

August 2001

The Issue

The issue of the proposed traffic flow on and off the new Reid Highway Extension had been a highly contentious issue in the Karrinyup / Carine community over the past decade, particularly at the Everingham St. intersection. An earlier trial closure of Everingham St. had been abandoned as unsuccessful. Complaints persisted in the community about lack of safety for the school children, delays at intersections and the hazards of traffic diverted onto local roads. Surveys of local residents showed the community remained divided about whether Everingham St should be open, closed or partially opened.

When Labor came to government, the new Minister suggested a trial partial closure of Everingham St. When this suggestion was also resisted, she decided to take one step back to gain consensus from the community about the best option to trial.

The Methodology

It was decided to carry out a Citizens' Jury - a consultation method developed in Germany and the USA and now used extensively in the UK - to give ordinary citizens a stronger voice and role in democratic decision-making.

The Process

The Citizens' Jury is a structured method of obtaining detailed, considered views from members of the public, who arbitrate between alternatives. The Jury hears evidence from a range of 'expert witnesses' and from this informed viewpoint, draws conclusions, which it recommends to the public body.

Representation

The Reid Highway Extension Citizens' Jury was chosen from a random sample of 250 residents from the surrounding area (selected randomly by the WA Electoral Commission) who were invited to participate. Forty (40) residents applied and twelve (12) were chosen according to geography to ensure each key area was represented.

Prior to the Citizens' Jury

An advertisement was put in the Stirling Times asking the community for submissions. One hundred and fifty two (152) responses were received.

The Citizens' Jury met with the Minister a week before the formal Jury sitting for an initial planning session. At this session, the process was explained to the Jury and each member received a synopsis of the community's submissions, together with papers from the Main Roads WA and the Stirling Council. Public submissions without the names attached were made available to the participants, as well as additional information and data they had requested. This information was also made available to the various action groups who had agreed to address the Jury.

At the Citizens' Jury

Understanding the Issues

Unlike a traditional Jury, the proceedings were facilitated by an independent arbiter. Also, unlike a Jury, it was expected to deliver its findings in a specified period of time - in this instance, during the one day.

The relevant action groups and other interested parties attended the weekend Jury deliberations as 'expert witnesses', to make factual presentations of their positions. They achieved this in a very professional manner, answering questions and clarifying issues as required.

When the presentations and discussion of the data had concluded, the 'expert witnesses' (presenters) left and the Jury deliberated. The technical experts remained to answer questions when needed.

Developing the Options

The Jury developed ten (10) options to resolve the issue. These included closing, opening and partly opening Reid Highway, with an innovative suggestion to create a one-way circuit around the school precinct.

Determining the Criteria

The key issues the Jury decided to take into account were:

  • Safety of children not only at Everingham, but, eg. at playground at Alsace
  • Access by buses, especially to and from the school
  • Access by emergency services
  • Local traffic access to and from Reid
  • Not displacing traffic onto unsuitable streets
  • Reduction in 'rat running'

The Outcome

The decision was unanimous - to fully open the Everingham/Reid intersection, however with a series of safety measures recommended to ensure the safety of the school community and residents.

The road option recommended by the Jury has now been built, including the safety additions. The option was trialled using the methodology suggested by the Jurors. The trial was successful and the road treatment has been completed.

The Citizens' Jury Report and Resultant Actions

The Citizen's Jury agreed upon the content of the report. They received a draft copy, made amendments and approved the Final Report and Recommendations. This was then submitted to the Minister. The Minister accepted the Report, including the additional money for the safety measures, and forwarded it to the relevant Agencies and to the media as her recommended action.

Learnings

The Citizen's Jury was an excellent example of community democracy - of citizens taking responsibility, acting professionally, and finding a solution that encompassed the interests of the whole community.

After such an extensive controversy, the community received the outcome with remarkable acceptance. They reported that they thought the process was fair, and since the community had made the determination, they were prepared to accept it - even though it may not have been in their personal interests.

Several of the members of the Jury admitted at the end of the sitting that they had been proponents of a different solution at the commencement of the proceedings. However, when they had all the facts, they suggested, the logic was obvious and it became clear to them that their earlier views were misguided.

It was considered to be a risky strategy choosing Jury members from citizens likely to be directly impacted by the decision. It was felt they would not be able to be impartial and maintain the interests of the whole community at the forefront. However, choosing local jury members was far more acceptable to the community than choosing citizens outside the area. As it happened, the Jury members took great care ensuring all the community's interests were taken into account rather than pushing for their own.

Since the issue was fairly clear-cut and the Minister was prepared to live with the Jury's decision - providing it was not at large additional public cost - the Citizen's Jury was an ideal methodology to use to resolve this issue.