Don’t become the next headline horror story…

If you’re a project manager or government official involved in a significant community project or investment - read on. We want to help you avoid the horror stories that can happen when the community is not engaged in important projects:

Photo credit to Nick

Decisions getting overturned

Non-notified consents are meant to give you consent that a development will go ahead. But we’re seeing more situations where community members are taking developers or councils to court and getting those non-notified consents overturned.


Complaints and delays from start to finish

It takes time to respond to community complaints and fight fires from the start to finish of your project. And it creates negativity and ill-feeling when the development is meant to serve the community.

empty stadium

Wasting your investment in something people don’t need

Perhaps the biggest risk of all is that you build something that isn’t what people truly need. Your hard data might be telling you that the community needs a new cycleway, library, stadium or subdivision. But the community is made up of real people with histories, emotions and cultural norms that you also need to consider and listen to.


Community engagement is the future of infrastructure

We recently attended the first-ever National Community Engagement for Infrastructure Forum in Australia. We heard some sobering statistics.

68% of infrastructure investors are concerned about socio-political risks.

And for good reason.

Over $20 billion in Australian infrastructure investment in the last decade has been mothballed or significantly delayed - due in large part to a lack of engagement.

It doesn’t need to be that way.

Well-managed engagement can save you time and money, and improve the quality of your investment.

That’s becoming clear in Australia, which is several decades ahead of New Zealand in this field. In Australia, community engagement is becoming as recognised as health and safety. Not just because it mitigates risks, but because it adds value to the bottom line.



Strengthen your mandate through well-managed community engagement.

Safe Communities hui

Stage 1: Prepare

This is where we’ll help you understand the key factors that will influence the success of your project. We’ll investigate things like the context, the key people, your objectives, and the existing power dynamics.

This is where we create an Engagement Plan with detail on the proposed timeline, methods and resources required. It’s also where we secure the commitment of your leadership team to ensure they understand the value of the process. Internal unity is crucial before you start any community engagement.

Under-invest in this stage at your peril. You’ll risk jumping into an engagement process that simply isn’t fit-for-purpose.

Stage 2: Manage

This stage is the actual “community engagement”. We’ll manage this in partnership with your project team. Your Engagement Plan will be our guide, but we’ll also adapt as we learn and progress.

Stage 3: Review

At the end, we’ll evaluate the whole engagement and report to you on key outcomes. This doesn’t mean we won’t learn and iterate during the Manage stage but it helps to have those learnings wrapped up formally at the end of the project.



Not sure if you need to invest in community engagement?

Before you jump into an engagement project that could set you back six figures, you need to be clear about the factors that will influence the project. Our Fixed-Price Engagement Design will clarify your objectives and set out the best course of action to take. Don’t rush your into engagement project without a clear strategy for success.


“We don’t have time for community engagement.”

Not another expense to add to the balance sheet, right?

If you’re viewing community engagement as an expense, you’re looking at it all wrong.

Well-managed community engagement will save you time and money:

  • You’ll improve your return on investment by better understanding what people need and want

  • You’ll have fewer surprises because the community will have structured ways to contribute their voice

  • You’ll reduce the risk of the project being sidelined or delayed by court action.

Phil Becker.jpg
By acting as that mediating ‘glue’, Business Lab enables conversations and direction setting that would otherwise not happen or be muddied by past tensions and different needs.
— Phil Becker, Business Relations Manager, Wellington City Council

“People will just say Not In My Backyard.

Here’s where the difference between consultation and engagement becomes clear.

When you consult, people feel like you’ve already made the decision and you’re just ticking a box.

When you consult, you’re immediately on the back foot. Your desire to control makes people suspicious.

So the community reacts by saying “No, not in my back yard. You can force that project on somebody else.”

When you engage, you start a conversation with the community as equals.

The community will respond differently when you talk to them before coming up with options. By involving them in defining the problem, they are more likely to understand why difficult solutions might be necessary.

Colin on the whiteboard


Improve community infrastructure through well-managed community engagement.


We could go on for hours about the benefits of engaging your community in infrastructure projects. But you’re time poor.

So let’s sum up what you’ll gain:

  • You’ll improve your return on investment by better understanding what people need and want

  • You will have fewer surprises because the community will have structured ways to contribute their voice

  • You’ll reduce the risk of the project being sidelined or delayed by court action.

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Just a quick note. It’s best to get in touch with 2-3 months before you want your engagement process to begin so we can carefully map it out with you.