Following the recent survey on the Cambria proposal, there’s been a discussion on the forum about the benchmark that must be achieved for survey results to be considered valid in terms of demonstrating community support/opposition. A summary of this discussion is presented here. Please add your comments on this topic to the thread below.
The DSRA submission on the Cambria Estate draft planning scheme amendment relied on results of 51% or higher. However, this figure may be too low in terms of a DSRA submission claiming that it’s representing the community on an issue. Perhaps this figure should be higher.
This issue has also come up in discussions about the DSRA’s constitution. In the past, a simple majority was the benchmark for a resolution at a meeting. However, in the current draft this has been changed to 66%. The aim of this change was to prevent motions being carried if the community is fairly evenly divided on an issue (eg 55% for, 45% against). It’s probably not great if a motion is carried when there’s a substantial percent of the community opposed.
The community is invited to consider the issue of benchmarks in relation to both survey and voting at meetings. At the moment, there are two suggestions:
1. increase the benchmark above the current level of 51%
2. use the difference between agreement and disagreement as the benchmark. For example, a result of 51% agree and 49% disagree is obviously not clear enough to be included in a submission which claimed to represent the community. But what if the result was 51% agree and 20% disagree (with the remainder undecided)? Could that be considered valid?
If we consider these suggestions in light of the survey results, the implications of these decisions become more apparent. For example, if option 1 was followed and the community decided on 60% as the benchmark, the following results would have been omitted from the DSRA’s submission:
· concern about the impact of increased tourist numbers: agree* 51%; disagree 23%
· support the idea of an 18-hole golf course in Dolphin Sands: agree 51%; disagree* 30%
· concern about proximity of the golf course to Moulting Lagoon: agree* 54%; disagree 18%
· concern about noise pollution during construction & operation: agree* 55%; disagree 18%
· concern about overall size of the proposed development: agree* 56%; disagree 17%
· airstrip to be moved so it is further away from existing dwellings: agree* 58%; disagree 10%
If 66% was the benchmark, the results below would also be omitted:
· concern about the golf course’s potential impact on wildlife: agree* 61%; disagree 15%
· use of golf course as a nearby safer place during bushfire: agree* 61%; disagree* 18%
· concern about the visual impact of the proposed development: agree* 62%; disagree 15%
Note that none of these results would have been excluded if the benchmark for being considered a valid indicator was at least 20% difference between agree and disagree. A 30% difference would have excluded concern about the impact of increased tourist numbers and support for an 18-hole golf course.
Neither agree nor disagree
As well as the benchmarks, there needs to be an appreciation of how the undecideds/neutrals are allocated or treated. In some of the examples above there is 30-40% "neutral/undecided" that will affect most benchmark targets. Under a 20% difference benchmark, 40% Agree/20% Disagree with 40% neutral/undecided would see a position reached despite there not being majority support at face value. Similarly, the 66% target can fail where there is clear majority support, as in the 3 examples above where there was a 20% neutral/undecided. Neither are good outcomes. Benchmarks need a level of nuancing as they can deliver poor outcomes when used as a blunt instrument.
Rules of the Association
Thinking through these issues has raised concerns about the 66% benchmark in the draft constitution. None of the results above would have been carried at a meeting if we accepted 66% as the cut-off. Does this suggest that 66% is too high? Would a measure of difference between support and opposition be preferable? This latter option would prevent a motion being carried in situations where the community is fairly evenly divided, while not setting the bar for agreement so high that widely held concerns are unable to be acted upon. How abstentions are handled would also need to be figured into any benchmark.
Please add your comments and suggestions below