A community consultation event was held on 21st June 2017 hosted by CSAU at the Oakey RSL in Oakey. The session had attendance of local businesses, TSBE representative and Landowner. Both CSAU and EPC Contractor presented on the development and construction progress as well as interaction and opportunities for the local community and economy. The interest from attendees was strong during the question period and feedback forms confirm that the development is a well-received opportunity for the community. Attendees were encouraged to get in touch with the project team with any further questions through the online community portal oakeysolarfarm.com.au
The community engagement strategy is giving back to the communities we work in. The use of local contractors to provide maximum economic and social benefits to the local communities is part of our holistic view in giving power to the people.
Canadian Solar has worked extensively to identify and target the key stakeholders that would be directly impacted by the Project and worked closely with them to embody integrity and transparency with the details of the proposed Project.
A well-planned and resourced community engagement program serves as a successful mitigating strategy to counter potential negative community feedback to the development, and to effectively highlight the positive local community benefits, both human and economic, that the Project will bring. Thus, Canadian Solar undertook a variety of community consults with key parties to gain their view on the proposed development which would be critical and incorporated into the Project’s decision-making aspects.
Canadian Solar met neighbours
After obtaining the site through the acquisition of Recurrent Energy and completing the necessary due diligence related to the Oakey site, we decided to proactively engage with the neighbours to further strengthen the relationship with them. This involved contacting each of them by phone to introduce Canadian Solar and outline our plans for development of the site. The phone calls were followed up with emails which included additional information about the Project which led to a conducted site meeting with the neighbours on the 3rd of October 2015.
The meeting went for approximately 2 hours and provided a great opportunity for the neighbours to put a face to the company name, further discuss Canadian Solar's approach to deliver the Project and discuss any possible concerns that the neighbours may have at length. At this meeting Canadian Solar was able to refer to many other International examples of where solar farms had not adversely impacted on the local land values and in some cases become local tourist attractions and presented an opportunity for the local community.
Details of the how the landscaping will soften the Project were also discussed and how the construction phase would be managed to minimise any impact on local traffic and farm operation. The neighbours did advise that they were very appreciative of Canadian Solar's efforts to proactively engage with them.
Canadian Solar met with the Toowoomba Regional Council
Our representatives met with Mayor Paul Antonio, introducing the Company through a dedicated presentation prepared for the event and provided a further explanation of the proposed development, presenting in detail the status of the development and the next phases highlighting the economic benefits the development will have on the local community.
Canadian Solar met with Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise
As significant direct and indirect benefits to the Queensland economy will result from the development of the Project, we have proactively engaged with members of the local economic development, the TSBE as the construction and operation of the project will provide an injection of investment capital into the local economy.
Looking into the Future…
Based on very positive results obtained from our community consultation strategy and praise received from the Toowoomba Regional Council, a similar approach is to be implemented following the ARENA Full Application. The basic ingredients to the implementation of future strategy are briefly planned as follows, with more details to be finalised closer to the date:
- Publically announce success of ARENA Application to the local community, key stakeholders and interested parties;
- Formal face-to-face community consultations have been organised for the 6th and 7th of July.
- Set up a dedicated online community portal for the construction phase of the Project which can be found on the ‘Contact Us’ tab on this website; and
- Update the community on a monthly basis with information sheets as to inform the community regarding the progress and critical milestones of the Project.
We plan to continue our community outreach program through construction to avoid potential misinformation and to provide responses to concerns as they arise with all key stakeholders and the broader Toowoomba Regional community.