All development proposals have to run the gauntlet of the approvals process. Major resource projects are generally subject to particularly intense scrutiny. The key element in the approvals process is that it is about making decisions that take into account the benefits or otherwise to society as a whole – the interests of any one group do not take precedence. Most groups tend to see their relatively narrow interests as representing those of the broader society. Each group develops their arguments for or against a project in isolation, and then presents these to an arbiter in an adversarial situation. From this mire of argument and counter-argument it is often difficult to discern just what the real benefits of a project are, and opportunities for agreement and constructive modification of proposals to meet real concerns are often missed. The contention made in this paper is that the inevitable differences between these various viewpoints should be harnessed to help the proponent to come up with a proposal that is clearly of overall benefit to society and which gains approval. It is better to accept that no one group has a monopoly on wisdom in this area and to engender an environment of creative tension in which the pros and cons can be broadly considered and good planning and design used to produce a proposal that has a high chance of success. There are a variety of ways in which this approach can be implemented. Some of these options will be discussed in terms of their likely applicability to energy projects and their potential for success.