So you have determined that you have an interest in a matter where you want to influence the outcome, such as a draft local council policy or a development application nearby, and you are not sure where to start.
As with many of these types of matters that get publicly exhibited, those responsible for reviewing your submission and taking its points into consideration, will generally be doing it against a set of predetermined criteria. In many instances, it may be statutory criteria, which is the case for development applications and merger proposals as examples.
It is important to establish what these criteria are before you start writing your submission. That way, you can ensure that your submission remains relevant, and you have a greater chance of your views being taken into consideration.
A recent example is the local government reforms in NSW. When examining a merger proposal, the Delegate was to take into consideration a number of factors as prescribed by the Local Government Act 1993, to inform the recommendation the Delegate made to the Minister. Some of these factors included (not exhaustive):
- the financial advantages or disadvantages (including the economies or diseconomies of scale) of any relevant proposal to the residents and ratepayers of the areas concerned,
- the community of interest and geographic cohesion in the existing areas and in any proposed new area,
- the existing historical and traditional values in the existing areas and the impact of change on them,
- the attitude of the residents and ratepayers of the areas concerned.
Matters that require public exhibition are usually emotionally sensitive, such as local government reform, therefore, it is important to remove personal emotion from a submission and rely on facts and substantive information to make the case.
In reviewing many public submissions made as part of the reform process in NSW, many submitters provided written submissions stating that they were against a merger proposal, and most failed to provide any reasons or justification for such a view, other than broad anecdotal statements. In this case, the submitters views could generally only be considered against the criteria “the attitude of residents and ratepayers of the areas concerned”. As the factors that are required to be considered are not weighted or given a hierarchy, by limiting the submission to the emotive issue, submitters have limited their ability to influence the Delegate’s recommendation.
A simple checklist for writing your submission:
- Has the assessment criteria been addressed,
- Have your claims and statements been substantiated by evidence or fact,
- Does your submission relate to a broader plan, if so, does your submission address its scope,
- Do you have emotional statements. If so, are they critical to the submission, and
- Is there a better alternative or compromise. If so, state it to give the reviewer something to work with.
You can download a copy of a submission Two Crows prepared on one of the regional merger proposals in February 2016.