The following is a report on the outcomes from public and stakeholder consultations undertaken by the Department of Natural Resources as part of the planning process for the use of western Crown land.
In December of 2012, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources acquired Bowater lands in western Nova Scotia. When added to current Crown land holdings, approximately 1.5 million acres of Crown land lie west of the line created by Highways 333, 213, 102 and 101 running from St. Margarets Bay to the Avon River in Windsor. In order to ensure the best sustainable use of the Crown lands, in January 2013 the Department initiated a Crown Land Planning Process for Western Nova Scotia. As part of this initiative and in keeping with the Department’s Natural Resource Strategy values of sustainability, transparency, diversity, collaboration and informed decision making, public and stakeholder consultations were undertaken to gather information on the best use of Crown land to generate economic, social and environmental benefits for communities in the Western region and all of Nova Scotia.
The Department hired the consulting firm Collective Wisdom Solutions in association with The Performance Synergy Group to design, manage and facilitate the public and stakeholder consultation meetings and report back on the information gathered through these processes as well as online.
The following is a summary of the approach and information gathered at these meetings and online.
To ensure the widest possible consultation was undertaken, meetings and open house sessions were held in each one of the 9 counties wherein the Crown lands are located. Dates for the open houses and meetings were widely publicized through the provincial and community newspapers, stakeholder groups, e-mail lists, community groups, posted online and through social media (Twitter).
Nine public open houses and four stakeholder meetings were held around Western Nova Scotia. The public open houses were held in the evenings from 5 to 8 pm in the communities of: Shelburne (March 18), Windsor (March 19), Saulnierville (March 25), Yarmouth (March 26), Cornwallis (April 2), Berwick (April 3), West Northfield (April 4), Black Point (April 8) and Greenfield (April 9). Approximately 676 people attended the public open houses.
The four stakeholder meetings were held in the afternoons in the communities of Yarmouth (March 26), Berwick (April 3), West Northfield (April 4), and Black Point (April 8). Approximately 66 people attended these meetings with 57 stakeholder groups represented out of approximately 220 invited locally and from provincial organizations.
Nova Scotians could also provide comments online via the website – www.novascotia.ca/natr. The deadline for online submissions was extended to April 19, 2013, to allow Nova Scotians additional time to get their comments in once the public meetings were completed. Approximately 166 people sent in their ideas and thoughts online.
In addition, 44 separate submissions were received through various channels including the website and the public meetings.
The open houses were designed to allow as many people as possible to gather information, ask questions and provide input in a manner that focused on possibilities in response to three questions through flip charts, sticky notes, filling out questionnaires and/ or providing comments to staff. The questions used were the same ones used for the stakeholder meetings and online comments. The questions focused on looking at what the best possible uses of the Crown lands should be to ensure sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits for the communities in the Western part of the province as well as all for all Nova Scotians.
The questions that were posed at all the meetings and online were as follows:
The format of the public open houses was as follows. There were information/ discussion stations set up around the room with maps (see List of Maps below), information and Department of Natural Resources staff with knowledge and facts about the many different resources and features of the Crown land. People could walk around, gather information, examine maps, and provide their local knowledge to the staff. There was a feedback area where written and verbal comments were collected and recorded. Some attendees chose to submit their comments online later after having absorbed the information they had gathered at the open house.
The stakeholder focus group meetings began with a background presentation, then participants were given time to circulate around the map stations to gather information and ask questions on the resources and features of the western Crown lands. They then participated in facilitated small-group round table discussions at which a variety of stakeholders sat together and developed consensus around the three questions, recording their groups’ views and priorities on flip charts.
List of Maps:
These maps were displayed at public open houses, stakeholder focus groups and online.
Reporting, summarizing and consolidation of public and stakeholder submissions and comments
The flip chart notes from stakeholder focus group discussions were typed up and provided to the Department of Natural Resources. Consolidated and summarized notes of the focus group discussions are included Section 4 of this Summary Report.
All the submissions, maps and comments received from the public, whether at the public open houses (on flip charts or as written questionnaire responses), or submitted by mail, by hand or online, were recorded in writing and have been provided to the Department of Natural Resources. The open house and online comments and submissions have been summarized and consolidated in Section 4 of this Summary Report.
The key themes from all the submissions and stakeholder focus groups have been drawn together and further consolidated in Section 3 of this Summary Report.
The verbatim submissions will be used by the Department of Natural Resources. They are not being published due to privacy issues.