Community and stakeholder engagement on Sydney Harbour wharf upgrades, Australia

Reaching out to the community to achieve equitable access to public transport

Today, Sydney’s ferry wharves facilitate growth and access around Sydney Harbour, and also hold a very important place in the hearts of local communities as landmarks, meeting places, recreational facilities and places of historical significance. Transport for NSW have been progressively upgrading ferry wharves to improve access to these facilities for customers.

Communication and engagement specialist, Aurecon, has been working with Transport for NSW to ensure the improved facilities meets customer and community needs. The input of customers and community is a critical part of creating the best possible outcome of the project. This balances the desire to improve transport with maintaining the elements which make these wharves such a beloved part of the community and the Sydney transport network.

Aurecon developed a communication and stakeholder engagement program for the first wharf, located in North Sydney. Following the successful completion of the initial consultation for the concept design for North Sydney Wharf, the same approach is being adapted and applied to a further six wharf upgrades.

Community engagement in the digital age

Aurecon’s engagement approach for North Sydney Wharf used a blend of traditional communication methods and two digital data-driven platforms by Aurecon’s 3D visualisation and creative technology studio, Unsigned Studio. The community around North Sydney Wharf was a mobile-centric audience, predominantly young working residents and parents of young children, as well as smaller numbers of residents with accessibility issues.

This information underpinned a flexible and agile digital communications approach by using an interactive digital platform highlighting the project’s concept design and key information. The digital platform was embedded with Aurecon’s bespoke feedback tool swipEngage to gather information and receive live feedback from customers and the community using iPads and phones.

The survey captured information across demographics, user journeys, wharf accessibility, the types of facilities important to customers, project sentiment and their desire to be kept updated on key project milestones. This was supplemented with traditional engagement methods including: face-to-face community drop-in sessions, postcards, fact sheets, door knocks and open stakeholder meetings.

The combination of a digital platform and feedback tool with more traditional methods enabled a participant-centric approach, where engagement activities were undertaken ‘flexibly’ and with accessibility in mind at the wharf, on the ferry, in the local park or by participants accessing material online in their own time.

Armed with a volume of meaningful and insightful feedback from the community, Transport for NSW’s project team was able to incorporate customer and community feedback into the concept designs of the North Sydney Wharf upgrade.

Where to next?

The learnings and successes from the engagement process for North Sydney Wharf will be applied to community consultation on the remaining wharf upgrades. The approach also meant that Aurecon and Transport for NSW were well prepared with flexible and agile digital platforms that could be easily used while COVID-19 social distancing measures were in place.

‘Putting the customer at the centre of everything we do’ is a Transport for NSW core value and was the driving vision for the Wharf Upgrade Program’s customer and community engagement process.

By capturing meaningful feedback from those already using the wharf, as well as potential future users who were unaware of how the upgraded facilities could benefit them in future, will contribute to new and improved pieces of transport infrastructure. It will also ensure they continue to be relevant and well used, be equitably accessed and remain as places of significant importance to local communities for many years.

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