Our political system has been corrupted by dodgy donations from property developers, and residents feel like they’ve lost control of their communities. Right now, local governments write neighbourhood plans, conduct tokenistic “community consultation” and then approve the plans with very little scrutiny.
The Queensland Greens are committed to a fundamentally different way of doing things - one that puts people and communities first.
We would put power in the hands of residents by launching a groundbreaking trial of deliberative neighbourhood democracy.
Instead of being written and then rubber-stamped by local governments, neighbourhood plans would be crafted by planning experts, elected councillors and “citizen juries” from the local area and the region. Members of the citizen juries would be paid for their time, and would be given the necessary information, time, space and resources to deliberate.
In the trial, neighbourhood plans would need to be approved by a community referendum held to coincide with local or State government elections. Local governments would still need to approve the plans, but residents would have the final say.
Town planning experts and public servants often work hard for better outcomes, but the corrupting influence of property developers over our State and local governments means their advice is regularly ignored.
Decentralising power is the best way to make sure politics stays in touch with everyday people, and to avoid cronyism and corruption.
Citizen juries have been used successfully overseas, and their conclusions are usually well-respected by local communities. This trial would improve the quality of neighbourhood plans and bolster their legitimacy by making them genuinely democratic and deliberative. In order to ensure the integrity of these plans, building height limits and other crucial measures will be prescriptive rather than “performance based”.
The trial would require amendments to State legislation, but would be delivered by local governments.
Community voting is already happening
Jonathan Sri, Queensland’s first ever Greens local councillor, has already started to implement community voting in the Gabba Ward of Brisbane City Council. Instead of local councillors deciding which park and footpath upgrades get funding, this process gives residents a direct vote on how their money is spent.
Deliberative democracy in other countries
Funding for intersection upgrades, parks and community facilities, which is collected from property developers through infrastructure charges, can be allocated locally through participatory budgeting and community voting. Participatory budgeting processes have been used successfully in cities around the world, from New York, USA to Porto Alegre, Brazil.