The Lakefront Study
Using GIS for Environmental Conflict Resolution
Planners use GIS to turn angry residents into happy tea-drinkers
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Now, onto the GIS story for today. The slides are from a conference presentation I gave. The night before was a sleepless one, as is usually the case when you tell yourself you need a good nights sleep so you feel refreshed for your presentation the next day. Yes, it happened. I stood in front of a packed theatrette of leading academics and scientists, and promptly “forgot” my talk. A minute of silence is meant to be a sign of respect, and not a sign that a talk is about to begin. Feet were beginning to shuffle and suddenly I remembered the first few words, and I was off… Now, here’s the funny part. Afterwards, a very senior scientist approached me, shook my hand and said… “Ian. I have to tell you something. That was one of the most professional talks I’ve ever seen. The silence at the beginning…I’ve just never seen that done before” . If only he knew!
These days people’s “BS” meters are fully operational. If someone’s neighbor can develop their land but they can’t, then they want to know why. The Lakefront project demonstrates that GIS has an important role to play here.
In Australia, as is the case historically in many places the world over, paper townships were created. By paper townships I mean that when you visit the site they are rural fields, but local maps show them as having residential streets and small residential blocks. Commonly people purchase these and expect that a block also comes with the right to build a house there. Oh, no. Not necessarily! Aside from developing local planning zones (eg. residential, commercial, industrial, etc), local councils these days can only give planning permission if environmental criteria prescribed by other government authorities are satisfied. In particular, the effective treatment of household wastewater is an important one. Any fool can “dispose” of wastewater by diverting it to street drainage. Thats what used to happen in towns hundreds of years ago. Convenient maybe, but towns used to stink and disease was common. Certainly nobody swam in local rivers!
In this video I walk you through a real life example of GIS being used for Conflict Resolution (a common occurance for Planners and Legal folk). The thoughtful use of GIS in this case did much to diffuse a serious, long-lived local planning conflict. Hmmm, can anyone see a career opportunity here?
From the eBook…
Some time ago I worked on a lakefront planning project. At a meeting before my group became involved tempers flared so much that security had to be called. In contrast, following the community meetings my group ran, residents shared tea and biscuits with Council staff. Why the difference? I think it’s simple. The GIS approach promoted transparency in the planning process. These days, especially since social media has allowed community voice to be heard, people’s “BS” meters are fully operational. If one resident gets an entitlement that another doesn’t get, then the reason for the difference needs to be demonstrated. GIS can play a very important role here.
In the community meeting we began by talking about the environmental and planning constraints imposed by more senior levels of government and their link to water quality and community health. Then we overlaid the government regulated GIS constraint maps (steep slopes and watercourse buffers) on top of each other. After that we overlaid a soil map that we created, and finally a property map. Because, the community was able to see how the constraint maps built up and how each of the maps interacted, they could see that this planning process was scientific, repeatable and defensible. We demonstrated and explained to all stakeholders why the town could not sustain development at the density shown in the current plan. We also showed which individual lots could sustainably dispose of wastewater onsite, and which ones couldn’t.
PLEASE GIVE ME FEEDBACK: This is a young site and I’d like to make it relevant to people wanting to learn GIS. My thoughts are that I’ll start with a few examples of GIS applications, mostly from the eBook before going into detail about GIS theory. I’d really like your feedback about what you want. For example is this video too long for you & would you prefer it to be split up? Or do you just want to know about the GIS techo stuff? Please write you comments below. I make use of the Facebook commenting system – it is a way to ensure less spam on the site.