SCARBOROUGH SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL REDEVELOPMENT
SCARBOROUGH SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL REDEVELOPMENT
May - July 2001
Closure of the Senior High School
The prior Government had determined that the Senior High School was
no longer required due to declining numbers of school aged children in
the area. The community opposed the closure of the school, however it
was closed, with minimal consultation. When the community asked for the
swimming pool and gymnasium to be retained for community use, the
request was ignored and the bulldozers came in.
Development of Lobby Groups
A powerful and organised community group actively lobbied for over
18 months for 100% of the land to be retained as public open space.
Other lobby groups developed through sporting organisations, the local
primary school and other community groups. This issue was perceived to
have had considerable influence at the State election, where the
sitting member lost his seat.
The Liberal Government of the day had initially committed to 10%
public open space, which was later increased to 30% public open space.
The new Labor Government came to office with the commitment to consult
the public before further developing the site. Before this
consultation, they made a Cabinet decision to sell at least part of the
site to provide $10.5M for educational facilities. The remainder would
be subject to community consultation. Analysis from the Valuer
General�s Department indicated that this would be $3.8M that could be
used to pay for facilities or additional public open space
Stage 1: Determination of the Options Consensus Forum
A Consensus Forum was held to assist the community to develop
between 3 - 8 options to take to the larger community for their vote.
Each of the key lobby groups was invited to send several delegates.
A random sample of residents from the larger catchment area around the
school received invitations to attend. Advertisements were put in the
local newspapers for interested participants.
Just under 100 participants attended the Consensus Forum, consisting
of almost 50 who were invited either through the key lobby group
invitations or the random sample invitations; and a further 50 who were
chosen from those responding to the community newspaper advertisement
A small Community Reference Group consisting of the leaders of the
key lobby groups was instituted to oversee the proceedings. This Group
determined the process for choosing the participants from the
advertisement. Selection was done through a computerised random sample.
The task of this group was to ensure the process was fair and
transparent and to keep their members informed.
It was determined to run the engagement in two phases � the first a
Community Forum to determine the options; and the second a random
sample Community Survey, based on the findings of the forum, to
determine the wider community�s preferences.
Steps in the Process
Before the Forum
Although the community was involved in overseeing the selection
process for the Forum, there were still complaints about how the
participants were chosen as well as insufficient advertising and
notice. The Government had publicly stated that it would not consider
100% public open space, so many in the community did not want the
Community Forum to proceed. Protesters wearing 100% signs and large
posters had gathered outside the venue prior to the Forum. The media
was well represented and TV cameras and journalists covered the
To ensure maximum participation, a Table Facilitator was organised
for each table. The facilitators were Labor members of parliament as
well as the CEO and executive team of LandCorp. At a briefing session
prior to the Forum, a detailed description of the tasks to be
undertaken was distributed to them and potential difficulties were
At the Forum
Managing the Forum
Participants were allocated to specific tables � although the
seating was not always heeded.
The technique of De Bono's 'Six Thinking Hats' was used throughout
the Forum to reduce the emotion and encourage rigorous debate.
The Minister explained the Cabinet decision to sell at least part of
the site to reimburse money to Education. She indicated that up to 50%
of the land would be available for public open space (20% more than had
been previously promised) or up to $3.8M ($1.3M more than had been
offered previously). The response from many participants was angry
disagreement. Several attempts from the floor to stage a walk out did
not succeed, with participants choosing to remain for the duration of
LandCorp, the government agency charged with the redevelopment
responsibility, organised pictures and costings of approximately 10
options for distribution at the Conference. The CEO Landcorp described
these options to participants and answered questions. There was some
mistrust about the accuracy of the costings, with the belief that the
government would receive much more from the sale than was suggested.
Discussion of Options
The Tables were asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of
the various options and to design new options that would fit within the
government parameters of ceding $10.5M for education. Some options
focussed on the amount of public open space and its location on the
site; others focussed on the amount and type of recreational
facilities. Findings were discussed in a plenary session.
Prioritisation of Options
Finally, participants were asked to vote to determine the options to
be forwarded to the community for their vote. Two new options, which
were not within the government�s parameters, were proffered (100%
public open space and approximately 90% public open space) and received
preferences. The Minister committed to taking this back to Cabinet for
After the Forum
Cabinet maintained its commitment to securing $10.5M for education.
The Community Reference Group was advised, and a press release was
disseminated. The remaining options prioritised by the Forum were
discussed by the Community Reference Group and it was determined that
seven (7) options should be offered to the community for their vote.
Stage 2: Determination of the Preferred Option Community Survey
The boundaries of the survey sample were discussed with the
Community Reference Group, with an agreement for the catchment area to
include 6,000 homes and for each household to receive one survey. The
WA Electoral Commission provided the survey addresses, including the
name of the oldest person in each household to whom the survey would be
The Community Reference Group agreed that bona fide members of the
lobby groups who lived outside the catchment area boundary would also
be sent a copy of the survey to complete, if their names and addresses
were provided to LandCorp.
This process was not well understood by the community. The survey
was criticised for not allowing sufficient people to vote or attempting
to rig the vote
The survey was prepared by an independent consultant. The format
consisted of coloured pictures of options, with trade-offs between
public open space and facilities.
The first question asked the extent to which the community wished to
trade off public open space for facilities, with a range of a maximum
of 50% public open space with no facilities, to 30% public open space
with $3.8M for facilities.
The next question asked the type of facilities preferred, and if
they should be located on the Scarborough Senior High School site or
off site on the Scarborough Beach foreshore, or on a combination of
The 100% public open space group criticised the survey in the media
for its complexity. Others, however complemented the way it handled a
complex subject simply. Notably, there were only 4 responses in total
that could not be coded. There was also public criticism of
insufficient time to respond. However, ten (10 ) days were allowed to
return surveys, and this was extended when one of the action groups
submitted a list of names to receive the survey right before its due
A total of 6,100 surveys were received by households in the school
catchment area and approximately 400 members of sporting and action
groups involved in the site development. A total of 1,889 responses
were returned, ie 31 %, which is high for a community survey.
The clear community preference was for 30% public open space with
facilities. This preference received 51.1% of the vote (938 first
preference votes) compared to 26.4% for 50% public open space (485
first preference votes) and 22.5% for 41.5% public open space plus
facilities (412 first preference votes).
Overwhelmingly, respondent households preferred facilities on the
Scarborough Senior High School site, a total of 69.5% (1189 first
preferences) compared with 30.5% for facilities either off site at the
Scarborough beach foreshore or both on and off site (521 first
The community chose the option of 30% public open space with an open
50 metre swimming pool, as well as one enclosed and one open
multipurpose court on site, that is 36.1% of first preferences (618
The Minister accepted the survey findings and put the agreed money
aside for the pool and multipurpose court to be built on the school
The result was not well received either by the group who wanted 100%
public open space or the Local Council, which didn't want to build the
swimming pool on site, but rather at the Scarborough Beach foreshore.
To date, the residential blocks have been sold and the multipurpose
court has been built on site. However the pool has not. The community
is still lobbying the Local Council to build it on the school site. The
remaining money for the pool rests in a government account awaiting
resolution of the issue.
Despite the considerable effort to create a fair, transparent and
accountable community consultation process, it was criticised by some
at every stage. The key learning from this is the crucial importance of
consultation with a community very early in the decision making
process. Because the community was not involved from the outset of the
decision to discontinue the school, the community became angered and
frustrated, making future attempts at negotiation extraordinarily
When community members were anxious about the result, they
criticised the process, even though they were stakeholders it its
development. Rumour and innuendo became far more powerful than fact and
information. Considerable distrust developed not only between the
community and the politicians / bureaucrats, but also within different
segments of the community. Agreements not in writing were later reneged
Although the process was seen as fair and worthy by some community
groups; for others, it was a betrayal. The lobby groups in the
community that did not agree with the parameters the government set,
could see no fairness in the consultation process.
It could well be that when there are focussed, single issue lobby
groups that have determined there can only be one resolution to then
issue, that the Consensus Forum is not the engagement technique to use.
Consensus Forums are best used when the community is willing to engage
in dialogue about all potential options, and can be engaged in
reframing issues in order to find alternative solutions.