“Why didn’t I hear about this?” This is one of the most common and damaging complaints community members make about projects. Often this complaint boils down to this: because you didn’t get the distribution area right, they didn’t get sent information about your project.



Too often I see engagement teams pouring hours into stakeholder matrixes that capture every possible interest group under the sun who they may, on occasion, speak to: government agencies, ministers, MPs, associations, business groups and so on. But then they spend five minutes on Google Maps working out who they’ll be regularly talking to – sometimes over many months or years.

For many projects, your distribution area is the first domino that sets your community engagement strategy into motion: it determines who will get your newsletter and, in turn, who finds out about your information session, who gets to talk to your project team, who gets a better understanding about your project, who learns how to give feedback, and on it goes

1.     Look at your DA or EIS

Your Development Application (DA) or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) will have a bunch of consent conditions. These are all the things you need to fulfil before you can go ahead with your project. Very often these consent conditions include a specific geographic area or set of stakeholders who you need to consult with. If so, this should be the starting point for your distribution area. But remember: you may want to go wider than the area specified in the consent conditions.

2.     Think about feeder streets

When working out who will be impacted by your project, people can get overly focused on immediate neighbours. But often there’s a bunch of adjoining streets that will be impacted by your project, particularly when it involves road works or lots of construction vehicles going in and out of a development site.  

This is why you need to think not only where the work is happening, but the flow-on effects onto the surrounding street network – the ‘feeder roads’ that are inextricable to the work you’re doing. Will construction traffic impact people’s daily commute? Will it impact access to a community facility like a public swimming pool or a school? Are there homes, apart from immediate neighbours, that will have large trucks rolling down their street each day?

3.     Who will hear the noise?

Noise is a growing problem in our suburbs and cities as they get denser and hit with more traffic. Given the growing body of evidence about noise exposure harming people’s health, you want to think carefully about who will be impacted by construction noise, particularly at night. Talk to your project team to see if they’ve down noise mapping to understand whether there are properties beyond the immediate neighbours that might be impacted.

4.     Do they have a letterbox?

Sometimes your distribution area covers the right properties, but some these properties don’t have a letterbox. The most common reason is because they use a PO box, which is often the case for businesses and rural property owners. If you can’t get their PO box details, then you’ll need to find other ways of reaching them such as placing a poster at the post office (e.g. for rural property owners) or searching for their PO Box (e.g. for businesses).

5.     Letterboxes are inside a locked apartment building

Sometimes letterboxes are behind locked gates or inside an apartment building. While our distributors can often get to these letterboxes if the building manager or concierge is on site, sometimes they aren’t available. In these cases, you want to see if there’s an email address of the building or strata manager who can then forward your information to residents’ via email.

6.     Don’t change the distribution area mid-project

Once you’ve identified the right distribution area, stick with it. We often see people changing the distribution area across the phases of the project. As a result, someone who got the first newsletter, doesn’t get the second one. If you start a conversation with someone in the community, you need a good reason not to finish it.

7.     When in doubt, go wide

After methodically thinking through the points above, you might still be uncertain about how wide your distribution area should be. As a rule of thumb, there are fewer risks in talking to too many people than too few.

But be aware that a two-dimensional Google map doesn’t tell you about population density. It can come as a bit of shock to find out how many residents can live in a small geographical area, particularly in denser parts of the city.

Need help mapping your stakeholder catchment area? 

Try our new stakeholder mapping software, If you have any questions about what it can do for you or you’d like a demo get in touch with Oliver Young using the contact form on our website.

Still got questions? Talk to us.

Our helpful customer service staff regularly guide our clients through the tricky business of choosing their distribution areas. If you’ve got questions, send us and email or give us a call.