ARARAT - Leading Australian renewable energy company, Pacific Hydro is always looking for ways to increase community involvement and participation.
Continuing with this approach the company recently changed the way it allocated its Ararat Sustainable Communities Fund by introducing a fund allocation panel.
The panel drew together members of the Ararat community and Pacific Hydro employees to assess applications and allocate funding.
The process proved successful when the inaugural panel allocated this year's $50,000 worth of grants to 21 local socially and environmentally sustainable community projects.
Pacific Hydro's general manager for Australia, Lane Crockett thanked the participants for volunteering to sit on the panel.
"We hope that by rolling the panels out to all communities we will improve the process of allocating funding. And in line with best practice grant allocation, we hope that we can eventually hand over the decision making process entirely to the community," Mr Crockett said.
"We're always looking at ways we can better engage with our host communities and handing over this process empowers the community to fund projects that are a high priority."
Community panel members who sat on the inaugural Challicum Hills Sustainable Communities Fund panel found the allocation process enlightening.
"It's certainly given me insight into how difficult it is to allocate the funding as all the applications were worthy!" community participant, Amanda Kumnick, said.
Pacific Hydro's manager, electrical engineering, Kate Summers agreed.
"I went in there with an idea of what should be funded but discussions and additional information that came from the others really helped me understand the priorities in the community," she said.
John Box, community participant, thought the diverse range of people sitting on the panel was helpful.
"It was great having a council (representative) on the panel to say well we can find funding for that project so you can allocate money to another project."
Mr Crocket appreciated the work of the panel.
"I'd like to thank David Lowing, John Box, Amanda Kumnick, Adam Merrick, Angela Hunt and the Pacific Hydro staff who sat on the panel," Mr Crockett said.
"This process will be one we can improve on each time we do it, so we value feedback from the panel members and the community.
"We're really pleased this first panel went well as we can now roll it out to all our sites."
The fund allocation panel is made up of four members of the community, representatives from Ararat Rural City Council, and three Pacific Hydro staff who are not normally involved in community-related activities. These positions will rotate annually. The wind farm site supervisor and a council representative are also included. The panel is facilitated by Pacific Hydro's community engagement co-ordinator, Chloe Carpenter who also acts as chair.
Apart from Council representatives, and the wind farm site supervisor, all other voting members will need to apply to sit on the panel.
If you're interested in sitting on next year's panel, please contact Chloe Carpenter on 03 8621 6428 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.