Cooperative Approach to Environmental Management in Mount Isa

Healthy Environs recently completed a project with the Mount Isa City Council – helping the council to develop its first Environmental Management Plan.

Located 1,820 km north-west of Brisbane and 880 km to the west of Townsville and covering an area of 43,713 km2, Mount Isa is the second-largest city in Australia by geographical area. It is a city of varying landscapes; from the rugged Selwyn Range, sprawling red deserts and spinifex plains to the banks of the Leichhardt River and Lake Moondarra, not to mention the distinctive wildlife, some found nowhere else in the world. Mount Isa is, of course, one of only a handful of Australian communities that has a mine located right on its doorstep. These unique attributes, combined with the remoteness of the city, made for an interesting and enjoyable project for Healthy Environs.

At Healthy Environs, we were able to take this project and apply our cooperative partnership approach which we believe leads to the best outcomes for our clients, the community and the natural environment. It’s this kind of approach which allowed us to be one of the recipients of the 2019 Premier’s Awards for ‘Excellence in Working with Communities’ for our work with another remote mining community.

This project consisted of several key stages.

The first stage involved travelling to Mount Isa to visit priority council facilities and key community sites of environmental significance. This visit included a council staff workshop and a community representative workshop. Engagement of both staff and stakeholders is something we at Healthy Environs consider one of the most important aspects of delivering a project. Engagement, particularly through workshops and surveys, allows us to apply our co-creation approach to project management and is one of our biggest strengths as a company. We have delivered many successful projects using this approach and it is something we receive positive feedback on.

Through these workshops plus a community survey, we were able to gather valuable insights into what is important to the community and incorporate these into the final plan. This gives the community a sense of ownership over how their city is managed. Out of these engagements came five key themes: Natural Environment, Waste Minimisation, Water Resources, Environmental Health; and Community Environment.

These themes, as well as some background research into the city’s previous environmental initiatives, provided the framework for the second stage of the project – developing the strategies for the plan. The final stage was bringing all of this together to develop the final document.

Throughout this project we held regular meetings with the council’s environmental team. This is another aspect we felt contributed to the successful delivery of the project and is something we try to incorporate into all our projects. These regular meetings allowed for any changes to be made or problems to be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible without impacting the overall project or timeline.

There was one tricky aspect to completing this project: COVID-19. Luckily, we completed the field visits and other travelling requirements before restrictions came into place and the remaining work was able to be done from our home offices with communication via phone, email and video. This flexible approach is something we are using in current projects and will be taken into future projects, where regular face to face meetings cannot take place due to health, location or simply convenience reasons.

Mount Isa is a unique city with a rich history, heritage and environment. Mount Isa City Council understands the importance of having an Environmental Management Plan to help protect and improve these attributes that make the city what it is. It was a pleasure to have helped them create and deliver a plan that will aim to achieve this.