VEAC chair speaks about community consultation process

As the date for the closure of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council’s community consultation period on its Central West Investigation draws closer, questions about how extensive the process has been remain on the lips of many community members.

The Advocate spoke with VEAC chair Janine Haddow about the community consultation process and the formation of the community reference group.

FOREST: The future of the wombat forest lies in the hands of VEAC's report. Photo: Kate Healy

FOREST: The future of the wombat forest lies in the hands of VEAC's report. Photo: Kate Healy

Ms Haddow said VEAC had a long and targetted community engagement process which began in March 2017.

“The first general submission period was in June 2017 when we got 640 submissions.”

She said the ‘awareness raising’ process began thereafter, when the council began speaking with stakeholder groups.

“We are now up to the stage where we target individual groups and businesses that want further information to clarify things and give their input on the recommendations.”

The closing period for draft submissions is December 10, 2018. Ms Haddow said VEAC had received around 500 submissions so far, but expected more.

The consultation process will continue until June 2019 when VEAC presents the final report to the government. 

Ms Haddow said the community reference group was part of the community consultation process, although it was only one small part. 

“There is a list of suggested criteria of people who should be involved in the group – that is inscribed in our act –ranging from recreational users to interest groups like the timber industry. 

“The community reference group is not a decision making group, but instead makes recommendations to us about who to talk to,” she said.

“There are five local governments in the investigation area and although two were recommended by the Municipal Association of Victoria, we are in conversations with all the local governments, including Hepburn Shire Council.”