Extract from 2016 Community Engagement Summit, Sydney, presentation by Kate Lewis, Northern Beaches Council.  

The recently formed Northern Beaches Council amalgamated three unique communities each with a strong identity and sense of local pride.  The amalgamation process involved significant community engagement process that offered a number of key learnings.

Firstly, the community must be engaged throughout the process of change. The internal processes of an organisational restructuring can be highly opaque to outside advisors, and it is easy for the community to lose interest in the process. Effort must be specifically taken to involve the community in the process of change, both to prevent disengagement with the organisation and to garner their input on how they want to be involved.

In the case of the Northern Beaches Council, this involved soliciting community input through the border review and preliminary amalgamation consultations. Several possible border configurations received community input, before the final decision to unify the full area of Manly, Warringah and Pittwater councils under the new council was made.

Secondly, existing engagement frameworks need to be realigned to account for changes in both available resources and community demographics. For the council, faced with the need to rapidly integrate and modify the various disparate projects the prior councils had been undertaking, this took the form of the establishment of a number of new consulting groups – local representation committees, strategic reference groups and the like – in order to rapidly gather community input on such a wide range of operations.

The key focus areas to take away from this example are: