Charette Web site glitches



Media release

Newcastle City Council says to residents: Tell us your vision for Laman Street – if you managed to get around the website


**Council website has problems – this reduces community feedback

and  the deadline to nominate for the workshop or put ideas to council is way too early.

 Media release 24 2 2010

 The first part of the community ‘consultation’ has been by way of residents telling council their ‘vision’ for the street.

Many people had trouble doing this online. The problem was that that the site registered a user as having already given their opinion by just opening the page. If you’re a bit indecisive and wanted to think about what to say you were up the creek.

 Another difficulty was the map supplied   – this put many people off as they assumed they had to fill it in when all many of them wanted to say was ‘Leave the figs alone, the street is perfect.’

 A third problem was that the site said people could email their vision but the form couldn’t be filled in online.

 How much time did council give people to put their vision in? Just three weeks. With still a month to go before the workshops people are asking what’s the rush to stop the feedback?

 The other part of the community consultation is the ‘charette’ being held in March. Never heard of a charette? It’s supposed to be a way of getting council and stakeholders together and to go through the issues to get to a rapid conclusion.

 If you google the phrase ‘charette or charade’ you get 5740 hits, most of them sad stories about communities whose vision was stifled by bureaucrats. Some writers say charettes are a way of making it look as though you’ve consulted the community when all you’re doing is stifling debate and looking as though you are fulfilling a development requirement to concult.

 The fig tree charette has places for only 70 people in a city of 155 000 and region of 400 000.

It’s going to take 2 days. ‘The charette handbook’ says the process should take more than three!

  A charette is supposed to be preceded by large information sessions but these won’t be available. Council say they will follow the charette which obviously means they can’t influence the outcome of the workshop.

  The process takes part on a Friday and Saturday – by definition it excludes many working residents.

 The charette  was supposed to be a meeting about the Laman Street  figs and alternatives to clear-felling the trees but Lord Mayor John Tate and supporters have hi-jacked the  meeting  to champion John Tate’s ridiculous vision about a carpark under Civic Park which no doubt will mean the Laman Street trees and lots more will have to go.

 Council is stacking the charrette:  one third is comprised at least partly of council and government employees. You can imagine how free to speak out an employee of council is going to feel.

 Some people are asking whether Council is also asking for people’s vision on the website to vet people who apply to attend -to stack the odds in council’s favour to ensure a council- based result whilst giving council the appearance of public participation.

 The so-called independence of ‘independent experts’ advertised at the charette is obviously questionable as they are sourced adn paid by council. It’s hard to imagine that won’t strive to ensure to deliver a client- ie council- based result to justify their fees and commissions. They should not and can not be called independent in any way. It’s time we called them ‘council-appointed consultants’.

 The only ‘independent expert’ needed in Laman Street is an arborist to tell council how to look after these trees for as long as possible.

 Charette or charade indeed.




The Charrette Handbook

National Charrette Institute — Bill Lennertz and Aarin Lutzenhiser

Foreword by Andres Duany
188 pages, American Planning Association Publishing, 2006


‘Ideas for Community consultation: A discussion on principles and procedures for making consultation work; A report prepared for the NSW Dept of Urban Affairs and Planning’, February 2001 Dr Lyn Carson and Dr Katharine Gelber

This photo is from the website of The Specimen Tree Nursery ; they specialise in mature trees. They were responsible for moving figs 1000km to the Homebush Bay Olympic site in Sydney.


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