Community encouraged to think big

Narrabri Shire Council in northern New South Wales has engaged a diverse cross section of its community to help inform future planning.

In late 2016 and early 2017, Council asked the community to ‘Think BIG’ about its future and where it wanted to be in 10 years’ time as part of community engagement activities for the review of the Narrabri Shire Community Strategic Plan.

This was the first time Council had implemented such a comprehensive Community Engagement Strategy to encourage participation from a wide range of residents and encompass new ways to engage with community members.

“The ‘Think BIG’ branding for the community engagement was developed to encourage residents to think about the big picture of where they see the community heading and where they think it should be in 10 years’ time,” said Mayor Cathy Redding.

Community engagement for this plan trialled several new methods including Social Media Conversation Hours and special postcards aimed at encouraging feedback from pre-school and school-aged students.

These new elements, as well as the more traditional ones, were met with great enthusiasm by the community.

Over 1000 different members of the community participated in the various community engagement activities with the main source of feedback being from the community survey, completed by over 440 different residents.

“With a population of around 13,000, our Council was extremely happy with the level of engagement we received across Narrabri Shire,” said Mayor Redding.

“For the first time we heard the voice of our youth as well, with some great ideas coming through in picture form and from meetings with school SRC [Student Representative Council] representatives.

“Hearing their voices added to the richness of the conversation and gave the conversation a new enthusiasm.
“The most pleasing result was that over 80 per cent of our residents surveyed viewed their quality of life in Narrabri Shire as good or better; demonstrating that we are serving our community well, and a majority are happy with the infrastructure, services and lifestyle offered in Narrabri Shire.

“Without the enthusiasm and active participation of residents, we would not have received the quality of information we did.”