SCARBOROUGH DELIBERATIVE SURVEY
SCARBOROUGH DELIBERATIVE SURVEY
4 September 2004
Coastal development in and around Scarborough Beach has been a
contentious issue in Perth for many years, both before and since the
high-rise Observation City development. The issue has polarised public
opinion, as well as impacting on planning.
The development opportunities of beach precincts have lead to many
proposals, which have reached various levels of formality. At the same
time, active lobby groups opposing development have also formed.
The City of Stirling, through its Scarborough Environs Area Strategy
(SEAS), proposed to revamp the Scarborough Beach area, including a high
rise development on the Scarborough beachfront. To achieve this
required an amendment to the City of Stirling's Town Planning Scheme,
which would need the approval of the WA Planning Commission and the
Minister for Planning and Infrastructure.
The City of Stirling had undertaken public consultation that
suggested the community was evenly divided, however extensive studies
strongly supported the proposals. On the other hand, some community
groups vociferously claimed the public was against any high-rise
development and had also carried out research that supported their
This issue was not only of local interest. Scarborough is a regional
attraction. Moreover, the Dialogue with the City
process had just put forward specific, metropolitan beach-related
recommendations that would have been helpful for the debate had they
been known and understood.
Since the Minister needed to make the final determination on the
proposed planning changes, she wanted to understand community attitudes
towards the development, and whether those attitudes would shift as a
result of comprehensive information on the issues and the opportunity
To give a more informed insight into people's views, it was decided
to carry out a deliberative survey. Participants from a random sample
fill out a survey, are invited to a forum to learn and deliberate,
following which they fill out the survey for the second time. A
comparison of the two surveys is helpful in the decision making
For example, if views were based on incomplete or inaccurate
information or assumptions, and they changed with more complete or
accurate reference points, then they should not be the (sole) basis for
decision-making. On the other hand, if opinions did not change after
receiving additional information and opportunities to deliberate, then
first opinions could be given more weight in the final decision making
The purpose of a deliberative survey is to:
- Provide baseline information on the views of metropolitan
Perth residents, in particular, Scarborough beach user suburbs, on
Scarborough Beach development;
- Clarify whether comprehensive information and deliberation
changes those views in what way.
A deliberative survey suggests that there are two elements that need
- the top-of-mind opinions which are held based on current
information and understanding; and
- the considered opinions held after being provided with more
comprehensive information and after more deliberative processing.
The first of these is obviously important, as it provides an insight
into the current views of the community. The second is equally
critical, as it shows what the potential views of the community might
be under different circumstances. Being able to factor both positions
into any decision making process increases the likelihood of a decision
being made that meets the real needs of the community.
A Steering Team, comprising members of the Coastal Planning and
Coordination Council and the Dialogue with the City Implementation
Team, was appointed to ensure the process was fair, open and
accountable and that all viewpoints were equally represented. The
Steering Team had input to the survey and to designating the key
stakeholder speakers and expert panel for the forum.
Development of the Survey
An independent consultancy firm developed the survey, with input
from the key stakeholders (including high-rise protagonists and
antagonists), and the Steering Team. Questions were added, altered and
deleted as a result of these discussions until all parties were
satisfied that the survey covered the issues in a non biased way.
Participants were randomly selected through a telephone survey. The
catchment area for survey and workshop participation was divided into
three tiers, reflecting a 2003 beach user survey of Scarborough beach,
carried out for the Department for Planning and Infrastructure. Sixty
percent of participation was selected from a fairly close arc around
the beach; thirty percent from a larger arc, and ten percent from the
broader Perth Metropolitan Region.
Participants were contacted by telephone and asked if they would
they be willing to participate in a survey and forum on a coastal
development issue (Scarborough was not specifically named to reduce
potential bias in recruitment).
Participants could choose to fill out the survey only, or to
participate in the deliberative session as well. A survey was mailed to
all consenting participants who fitted the geographic, age and gender
requirements (based on ABS data).
The pre and post forum surveys were the same except for two
variations. The pre forum questionnaire included a question relating to
what information people felt that they were missing or would like on
the issues, and who might be a credible provider of that information.
The post-test questionnaire asked additional questions on the
usefulness of the forum, whether participants thought they had changed
their views as a result, and why.
Participants were issued with an ID code at the time of their first
survey, and were asked to keep a reminder card with this code on it for
when they attended the deliberative session. (If the ID was forgotten
at the forum, the survey consultants gave assistance.) This code was
attached to their second questionnaire to enable the tracking of
specific changes in attitudes from pre-to-post testing.
There was no payment offered to encourage participation. Four
hundred and fifty three participants completed the survey (a response
rate of 61%). Initially, two hundred respondents agreed to attend the
forum. However, as the day got closer and other commitments came to the
fore, the number reduced dramatically. Just over one hundred attended
on the day. However, according to the analysis of the independent
consultant, the forum participants had a similar demographic profile to
the main sample, and were not attitudinally skewed away from the main
sample. Thus, while the deliberative sample was smaller than
intended, it was still representative of the main sample, and
therefore could be used to compare results and identify changes that
occurred after the forum.
A preliminary analysis of the survey forms returned prior to the
Deliberative forum was used to determine whether additional panel
members were needed to cover the key issues of interest to
Key Stakeholder Speakers and Panel
Determining who would speak and what needed to be said was an
iterative process that included the Minister, the key stakeholder
groups and the Steering Team. Each stakeholder speaker was asked to
prepare a ten minute presentation and to answer questions from the
floor. Two of the stakeholder groups requested that two people
represent their group rather than one. This was accepted. All speakers
were offered assistance with preparing powerpoint presentations or with
any other information they needed to make their presentations.
The Deliberative Forum
Purpose of the Deliberative Survey Process:
Aims of the forum:
- To provide decision makers with information about what a
representative group of people think about development guidelines and
zoning in the Scarborough Beach precinct, and whether these opinions
shift as a result of comprehensive information on the issues and
- Provide comprehensive, balanced information
- Respond to participant questions from different viewpoints
- Provide the opportunity to share views
- Following information and deliberation, enable participants to
complete the survey for a second time
Since the outcome of the forum was not to seek a consensus position,
it was suggested that participants focus on inquiry (seeking to learn)
rather than advocacy (seeking to expound a position).
Some aspects of the 21st century town meeting technique were used,
with each person and team submitting ideas on written sheets to an
independent theme team who analysed the data, sought common themes for
questions, and projected them back into the room on a large screen,
virtually in 'real time'. In this instance, table computers were not
Participants were seated at tables of ten with a facilitator at each
table. Both the facilitators and theme team had undergone a half day
training session prior to the forum.
Following the welcome speeches, the forum commenced with small group
discussions about participants' interest in taking part in the
deliberative process. The common themes were broadcast back to the
The first panel presented the background information. Four speakers
were given ten minutes each to outline their key issues. Areas covered
included sustainable planning, the planning context, including the
relevance of 'The Network City' (the newly developed metropolitan
community planning strategy), and the coastal planning context.
Following each speaker, participants submitted questions in writing
about the issues that they thought needed further explanation. These
were collected by 'runners' and given to the theme team to seek
commonly asked questions or themes. The themed questions were firstly
given to the speakers to give them a few minutes to prepare responses,
and were then projected back into the room. Each speaker responded to
their key questions. Other speakers had the opportunity to add
additional information. Following this, each table deliberated to
determine the issues that needed further explanation. These too were
submitted in writing to the theme team. The panel responded to these
This process was repeated for the panel of the key stakeholder
groups. This panel included Stirling Council, the Scarborough Beach
Association (pro development), and Save our Sunset (against high rise
development). The discussions for this session were far more animated
than the prior sessions. When the themed questions had received
responses, additional questions were allowed from the room.
Later in the afternoon, there was a panel of academic and industry
experts who covered a broad range of planning, environmental, economic
and social issues as well as transport impacts, urban design and
architectural issues. Each panelist gave a brief explanation of matters
of importance to their area of expertise. Then the panel questioning
process was repeated. The focus here was on conflicting issues, areas
needing a more 'independent' analysis or areas not previously covered.
Once again, following the themed questions, additional questions were
allowed from the room.
At the conclusion of the deliberations, each individual once again
filled out the survey. After filling out participant feedback forms,
and the farewell speeches, the forum closed.
A copy of the final proceedings and survey results was sent to all
forum participants and was also made available to the general public on
the Department for Planning and Infrastructure website.
Nearly all participants said the day of the forum was worthwhile,
with fifty percent stating it was 'great', forty nine percent stating
it went okay, and only one person saying it was 'not so good'
Many found it 'heartening' that there was a focus on Scarborough and
it's future. They were particularly interested in understanding the
complex nature of issues and recognized the complexity of finding a
good solution. The speakers from the various stakeholder perspectives
were variously received, though the panel of independent experts was
overwhelmingly well received
Suggestions for improvements varied from wanting more clarity about
the Council's proposals, through to ideas for refining the forum's
process. There were many comments on the nature and approach of the
speakers including - the need to broaden views, provide more evidence
and to focus on the needs of future generations.
Most participants reported that they learnt a lot during the day,
and felt positive about that. They gained new knowledge about
Scarborough, its history and possible futures. They also learnt about
the complex nature of planning and development processes. Comments on
the community consultation experience varied from positive to cynical.
While some were concerned about the potential 'tokenism' of such
events, others felt they were essential to understand the complexity of
issues, others� viewpoints and that there is usually not just one
The logistics, including the role of the facilitators and other
support staff were highly praised. A number of participants expressed
their appreciation at being included in the process, and in the role
the Minister had taken in the deliberations.
Importantly, ninety five percent of participants said they would
take part in something of this nature again
The support for sixteen story high-rise development at the
Scarborough Beach precinct did not increase from the first survey to
the second. However, the forum did increase the perception that the
Scarborough Beach precinct was an appropriate part of Perth to include
higher density living options, and buildings up to nine stories
received significantly more support following the forum.
While there was very strong community support for the need to do
something to improve the Scarborough Beach precinct in both the first
and second surveys, the forum increased the perceived need for
substantial development if improvement was to occur. The perceived need
to attract people into permanent and short-stay accommodation in the
precinct also increased after the forum. However, the importance of the
foreshore, the environment and the relaxed lifestyle did not alter from
one survey to the next.
In summary, while participants had a better understanding of
sustainability and what was needed to make significant improvements to
the precinct, participants' core perceptions about high-rise
development and their preferred beach environment remained the same.
As a result of the deliberations, the Minister gave her support for
some eight story development but not higher.
The outcomes of the deliberative process also provided important
background information for the preparation of the Metropolitan Coastal
Strategy, which is being developed by the Coastal Planning and
Given the passionate feelings about this issue, and the influence of
strong lobby groups, it was apparent that the deliberative survey was a
productive technique to use. This technique had been far more conducive
to deliberation than other engagement techniques, such as the consensus
forum, used in the past in similar situations. With lobby groups in the
role of 'expert witnesses', their views could be heard without the
potential of drowning out any other voice. With a random sample
deliberating, there was less likelihood of 'grandstanding' advocating
of a particular view, and greater likelihood of learning and inquiry
into others� views.
This initiative revealed important insights into the prevalent
attitudes and opinions in the community, as well as showing how these
changed in response to more complete information and discussion. Both
were important, and both needed to be considered in the decision making
process. A far more thorough understanding of the community�s attitudes
was obtained than a traditional survey could have delivered.
The reduction in expected number of participants on the day of the
forum was disappointing. To achieve a highly rigorous statistical
comparison between the first and second surveys, higher numbers would
have been preferable. When this technique is used in the future, more
thought will need to go into achieving higher numbers on the day.
In a one day forum, it is difficult to cover the information that
needs to be understood as well as allowing sufficient time for team
deliberation. However, expanding the one day forum into two or more
also causes difficulties in terms of likely drop-off in participation.
There was also the vexed question of observers, how many were
allowed (each key stakeholder group was allowed two, but there were
questions about community groups being over-represented), and whether
they should have been there, given their potential disruptive influence.
As with any planning initiative, the results indicated what people
currently think, and how they believe they would respond to various
hypothetical scenarios. This is not a definitive indicator of how
people will ultimately respond.