Journal article Open Access

Gladstone Harbour: a case study of building social licence-to-operate in a multi-use area

Llewellyn, Lyndon; Brinkman, Richard; McIntosh, Emma J; Marshall, Nadine; Pinto, Uthpala; Rolfe, John; Schaffelke, Britta

Maintaining a social licence-to-operate is a key challenge for industry and regulators. The city of Gladstone in Queensland, Australia, surrounds a highly industrialised harbour supporting major industrial activities, including alumina refineries and an aluminium smelter, other heavy industry, port facilities and, most recently, three natural gas liquefaction facilities built on nearby Curtis Island. This most recent phase of industrial and port growth coincided with the repeated capture of unhealthy fish and crabs in the harbour in 2011, generating community concern about potential cumulative environmental impacts of development. These were difficult to address at the time because of limited monitoring data and scientific knowledge, as well as some fractured relationships between stakeholders. In response to this debate the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership was formed in 2013 by stakeholders from industry, community groups and all levels of government. Experts from environmental, social and economic disciplines assisted to evaluate and report on the health of the harbour. Membership required ongoing and deep participation in activities which ranged from targeted research to community engagement. Central to partnership activities was a clearly communicated annual Report Card, derived from complex environmental, socioeconomic and cultural data. A Data and Information Management System was developed that integrates data from multiple organisations after automated quality checks, tracks data treatments and calculates the Report Card scores. The Report Card is intended to be meaningful to a wide variety of stakeholders yet allow access to underlying detail. This increased transparency and robustness has contributed to building community trust. Conversations now focus on likely management scenarios, rather than all imagined possibilities, and this in turn paves the way for reducing business risk for industry.

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