Engaging politicians and champions throughout the planning

It is important to engage the key political players from the start of the planning process rather than wait until nearer the completion of any such process. Soon after the start of the GBR planning process, a formal ‘Leader’s Guide’ was delivered to all State and federal politicians along the GBR coast and wherever possible, personal briefings were undertaken by senior GBRMPA staff. This helped ensure all politicians had the correct information, had extra materials to give to their constituents and had a contact within GBRMPA if further information was required. While some decision-makers would prefer all planning decisions to be consensus-based, or achieve a ‘win-win’ for all concerned, neither consensus nor ‘win-wins’ are achievable goals for stakeholder processes dealing with issues of such magnitude and complexity as most MPA planning processes. In the GBR, it was important to explain to politicians early in the planning process that compromises were the expected outcomes. At the end of the GBR rezoning, no one stakeholder group felt they got exactly what they wanted; but every group knew they had ample opportunities to become engaged and to provide input – and most understood the compromises all sectors had made.

The formal ‘Leader’s Guide’ delivered to all politicians along the GBR coast ensured they had the best available information and a person to contact within GBRMPA for further information. Maintaining contact with the key political players throughout the planning process was also invaluable and paid dividends when the final plan was presented to parliament. The use of telephone polling (outlined in Building Block 2) was invaluable to demonstrate the wider public views to politicians.

  1. Do not raise false expectations with stakeholders or politicians as to the likely outcomes.
  2. Consensus and ‘win-wins’ for all those concerned in MPA planning processes are unlikely to be achievable goals when dealing with issues of such magnitude and/or complexity.
  3. The timelines favoured by politicians are often not compatible with comprehensive planning processes.
  4. Compromise is essential – but recognise that this is considered by some to be winners and losers.
  5. The use of ‘Champions’ (e.g. sporting heroes, national identities) to endorse the planning process or deliver key messages is helpful to raise the planning profile.
  6. At the end of the day, almost all planning processes are political, and whether planners like it or not, there will be political compromises imposed at the end of the process – how much your political masters are aware of the issues, the implications of the recommended plan and the full range of public views will help them make the best possible decisions.