Public participation in commercial environments: Critical reflections on community engagement methods utilised in the Australian plantation forestry industry

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Abstract

Social concerns surrounding commercial plantation forest management practices in Australia have resulted in calls for more participatory forms of forest management decision-making. Public participation (or community engagement, CE) processes provide opportunities for affected and interested community members to voice their concerns over proposed plantation management activities, share relevant information and influence decision-making processes. A large body of literature provides ample support for the adoption of more participatory forms of resource management. The literature, however, provides little guidance on implementing such processes within the commercial domain of plantation forest management. Based on a review of the public participation literature and key informant interviews, we highlight the gaps between CE in practice in Australian commercial plantation management, and the theoretical objectives of CE: trust, process flexibility, inclusivity and representation. These gaps stem from the need to implement CE techniques in a way that recognises the commercial and regulatory realities of plantation forest management. While participatory techniques currently used by plantation managers meet some of the ideal objectives of 'good' participation and there is room for improvement, this improvement can take place only if CE practitioners recognise and address the commercial realities of CE implementation within plantation management, and acknowledge the limited practical applicability of some theoretical objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-191
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Forestry
Volume75
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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plantation forestry
forest industries
plantation
plantations
industry
forest management
methodology
decision making
resource management
method
public participation
interviews
management practice
managers
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title = "Public participation in commercial environments: Critical reflections on community engagement methods utilised in the Australian plantation forestry industry",
abstract = "Social concerns surrounding commercial plantation forest management practices in Australia have resulted in calls for more participatory forms of forest management decision-making. Public participation (or community engagement, CE) processes provide opportunities for affected and interested community members to voice their concerns over proposed plantation management activities, share relevant information and influence decision-making processes. A large body of literature provides ample support for the adoption of more participatory forms of resource management. The literature, however, provides little guidance on implementing such processes within the commercial domain of plantation forest management. Based on a review of the public participation literature and key informant interviews, we highlight the gaps between CE in practice in Australian commercial plantation management, and the theoretical objectives of CE: trust, process flexibility, inclusivity and representation. These gaps stem from the need to implement CE techniques in a way that recognises the commercial and regulatory realities of plantation forest management. While participatory techniques currently used by plantation managers meet some of the ideal objectives of 'good' participation and there is room for improvement, this improvement can take place only if CE practitioners recognise and address the commercial realities of CE implementation within plantation management, and acknowledge the limited practical applicability of some theoretical objectives.",
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N2 - Social concerns surrounding commercial plantation forest management practices in Australia have resulted in calls for more participatory forms of forest management decision-making. Public participation (or community engagement, CE) processes provide opportunities for affected and interested community members to voice their concerns over proposed plantation management activities, share relevant information and influence decision-making processes. A large body of literature provides ample support for the adoption of more participatory forms of resource management. The literature, however, provides little guidance on implementing such processes within the commercial domain of plantation forest management. Based on a review of the public participation literature and key informant interviews, we highlight the gaps between CE in practice in Australian commercial plantation management, and the theoretical objectives of CE: trust, process flexibility, inclusivity and representation. These gaps stem from the need to implement CE techniques in a way that recognises the commercial and regulatory realities of plantation forest management. While participatory techniques currently used by plantation managers meet some of the ideal objectives of 'good' participation and there is room for improvement, this improvement can take place only if CE practitioners recognise and address the commercial realities of CE implementation within plantation management, and acknowledge the limited practical applicability of some theoretical objectives.

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