Consensus processes in land use planning in British Columbia: the nature of success




Jackson, Laurie Skuba

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The general goal of this research is to address the question, what makes consensus work in resource management decision-making? Its purpose is to identify success factors for employing the consensus decision-making model specifically in land use planning; to examine the models incepted by the government of British Columbia during the period 1992-1995; and to investigate the application and effectiveness of the models as actually employed in integrated resource planning in British Columbia. The specific objective is to develop a general diagnostic framework for evaluation, based on indicators and success factors derived from a review of pertinent literature; from interviews with stakeholder participants in these processes; through review of government documentation, and through interviews with government officials who design and manage those processes. Four general success factors for public involvement were derived from the literature: Integrity; Explicit Objectives; Early Stakeholder Identification; and Strategic Communication. These are then examined in this research in the context of consensus. Government documentation provides a historical background of the development of integrated resource management in the province. It is shown that British Columbia’s resource-based economy is cyclic and it is postulated that environmental policies and proactive planning tend to swing with economic cycles. Increasing environmental conflict in the 1990’s led the governments of the day to embrace innovative planning methods, including provisions for public involvement at the degree of shared decision-making, or consensus processes with affected stakeholders. Consensus was employed at the regional level with the establishment of the Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE) in 1992, and even earlier at the sub-regional scale with Land and Resource Management Planning; and at the community level with Local Resource Use Plans, administered by the Ministry of Forests. No provision for evaluating these processes was outlined; existing evaluations consisted of summative reports prepared by process managers or facilitators. Interviews with policy and senior managers of government contributed another success factor to be tested, that of Management Style. Additional success factors were compiled through a pilot study, government reports, and previous evaluations, such as the CORE Vancouver Island survey. In-depth interviews were conducted with 50 managers and participants of consensus processes at all three levels, in eight planning regions of the province. As interviews of participants proceeded, any new factors which emerged were also added to the list below. Integrity of process, Commitment of participants, Openness, Explicit objectives, Early stakeholder identification, Strategic communication, Facilitator, Solid information, Clear policy guidelines, Prescreening participants, Training, Neutral chair/process mgr., Interpersonal dynamic, Clear operating principles, Relationships, Representative of constituency, Funding, Continuity of participants, Local participants, Meeting facility, Plain language, Size of group, Budget, support of ministry, Respondents rated, defined and discussed these factors, and answered general questions regarding success of consensus processes. From qualitative and quantitative analysis, using the spreadsheet program Excel, the following indicators (the top quartile) were determined to be “critical” to the success of a consensus planning process: Integrity; Solid Information; Facilitator, Commitment of Participants; Explicit Objectives; Training; Strategic Communication; and Government Support. Based on an analysis of the definitions and comments of participants, an evaluation framework was developed for consensus processes in land use planning. This includes diagnostic questions, followed by further considerations and recommendations for some critical indicators. The significance of this study will be in the short term to planners of consensus public involvement processes; in the long run as part of an adaptive model of contemporary resource management decision-making.



Land use, British Columbia, Planning, Government policy