South West Sydney
Moorebank freight terminal, PR firms start contacting outspoken locals
Anger in Liverpool is at boiling point with a series of infrastructure projects that residents feel has been dumped on this once safe Labor area, including the M5 widening, Moorebank Intermodal, refusal by ARTC and NSW Government to install noise barriers at Casula for residents being subjected to unsafe noise levels and a second Moorebank freight terminal project which is currently being assessed.
Partners from Kreab Gavin Anderson have been phoning members of the community who have been vocal in expressing their concerns about the future of Liverpool, and in particular the Moorebank Intermodal.
Kreab Gavin Anderson’s website describes the high profile company as “ a global public relations and communications partnership, advising corporations and other organisations on issues of strategic importance in business, finance and politics. We help our clients solve complex communications challenges, maximise their opportunities and achieve their strategic goals.”
Here is a copy of an email sent by one of the Partners of Kreab Gavin Anderson to a local resident.
“Thanks for taking my call just now. Just to confirm a few points that I mentioned in our discussion:
• The Department of Finance and Deregulation has established the Moorebank Project Office (MPO) to conduct a viability assessment into a freight terminal on Defence-owned land at Moorebank.
• The MPO has been given the task of conducting the assessment process. The assessment process will cover a wide range of issues – commercial, financial, technical, environmental and social. A number of expert advisors led by KPMG has been appointed to assist the MPO to assess these issues.
• When the assessment is complete, the MPO will report to the Government to enable a decision. The assessment process could take up to two years.
• The MPO is headed by Mr Robin Renwick of the Department of Finance and Deregulation and reports to the Special Minister of State, the Hon Gary Gray MP.
Communications and consultation
• Kreab Gavin Anderson has been appointed by the Department of Finance and Deregulation as the communications and consultation team for the MPO. Our role is to listen to the community and ensure that the issues raised are communicated to the MPO so they can be considered as part of the assessment.
• We are in the process of contacting community members who have taken an interest in the MPO assessment. Please encourage any community members who want more information to get in contact with us via the Finance website or email. We are now receiving all communications and will get back to everyone as soon as we can.
• We have spoken to the MPO about a time for you to come in and meet and discuss your concerns. We will get back to you shortly with suggested times for us to meet.
You are welcome to call me back or email me at a more convenient time – I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards....”
The Sydney Intermodel Terminal Alliance (SIMTA) is using Elton Consulting, the same company used to manage ‘community communications’ for the State Government in its plans to transfer contaminated waste from Hunter’s Hill to Kemps Creek, in Sydney’s West. Like Kreab Gavin Anderson, Elton Consulting is in direct contact with critics of the Government’s Moorebank Intermodal plans. Elton Consulting website describes the company as a firm which “understands that the professional environment is increasingly complex” and that “Senior management is more and more looking for assistance to navigate the regulatory, political and social requirements around programs and projects.” Elton Consulting says it understand that companies and governments need ‘a partner that can transform a challenge into an opportunity’.
In a recent email to a local resident an Associate Director of Elton Consulting explained that SIMTA has lodged its Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) with the NSW Department of Planning, which will includesa rail corridor, the intermodal terminal, terminal warehouses and distribution facilities, ancillary services and staff parking.
The email from Elton Consulting states that
“SIMTA is strongly committed to engaging with the community throughout the planning process, to both seek public feedback and to respond to the proposed terminal’s potential impacts.
We will be opening an information centre in Liverpool in the next few weeks. This information centre will be open to the public, staffed by SIMTA personnel and have a range of displays describing the proposed development. The address and opening hours of the information centre will be available shortly on our website.
There are a number of ways we are connecting with the community about the proposal:
• Information centre in Liverpool, opening soon
• Project website (www.simta.com.au)
• Dedicated free call information line 1800 986 465
• Email (email@example.com)
• Regular community news updates.”
Interestingly, despite this being one of the largest projects proposed in the Liverpool area in recent memory and one with significant traffic, transport, pollution and economic impacts, there is no mention of any public meetings. Presumably, Elton a commerical company, who has been employed by SIMTA will be reporting the information collected from these tightly controlled community ‘connections’. There is no community consultation in the traditional sense, whereby the community is given an opportunity to be heard in public forums and for the process to allow community concerns to be recognised and compromises to be reached.
Community consultation used to entail information being released to the public, advertised in local and national media and the calling of numerous public meetings. The people and organisation involved in the project used to be able to hear direct from the community and amend projects accordingly. Now Government conducts so called ‘community communication’ at arms length with high powered commercial PR firms skilled in “managing outcomes” doing the work and community feedback coming via a report compiled by the PR firm.
In this new era of “project management”, outspoken community members are identified, phoned directly and asked for individual meetings. It no longer feels like community consultation but looks more like ‘crisis management’ or ‘corporate relations’, where threats to a successful outcome are identified and attempts made to subdue them.
What do you think of the Department of Finance and Deregulation’s communications and consultation strategy of using Kreab Gavin Anderson to contact community members directly and ask them for individual meetings? Or of SIMTA's hiring of Elton Consulting to manage 'community connections'? Is this a positive or negative way of conducting community consultations? Have any PR companies contacted you? What other community consultation has taken place in relation to the Moorebank freight terminals?