The Mirror News

A shared vision for South Gippsland

THE community will be given every opportunity to assist South Gippsland Shire Council in developing a long-term vision for the shire.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, Council voted to establish a Community Vision 2050 committee and appoint one councillor from each ward (Cr Mohya Davies, Cr Andrew McEwen and Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks) to a steering committee to develop the vision. A part-time project officer will also be appointed, paid for with funds saved from salary vacancies.

As part of the Council 2012-13 Annual Plan, Council committed to adopt a four year Council Plan and commence development of a Community Vision 2050 by 30 June 2013.

The current Community Vision 2020 was developed in 2001-2002. With the year 2020 only seven years away and in acknowledgement that much has changed since 2002, it is felt timely for the community to come together and develop a new shared vision to shape the focus of council and community endeavours over coming years.

For this council perhaps more than any other, developing a shared vision with the community is vital. Since their election – or re-election – to South Gippsland Shire Council last November, councillors have taken every opportunity to stress that this council values community input.

“Council has made attempts in the past to be consultative, and despite the best intentions it has often been considered by the community as tokenistic,” said the mayor, Cr Kieran Kennedy, in his summary of the first 100 days of this council. “What we want is to evolve the good intentions of community participation and partnership into tangible outcomes, by using highly effective strategies and actual experience. This commitment to a participatory model has engaged us over the past 100 days. We want to give people a positive experience of working with Council with directions and outcomes resulting from aligned intent. We will continue to look for ways to better work together with the community and strive to implement the necessary changes.”

Although the first Ordinary Council Meeting for 2013 was held only last week, behind the scenes councillors have been anything but idle.

Councillors and senior shire staff participated in a two-day workshop on December 4-5 and councillors participated in a further workshop on January 23 and January 24. A final workshop was held between councillors and the executive on January 30 to review the discussions to date, commence articulating the main themes and determine a way to involve the community in developing a shared ‘Community Vision’ for South Gippsland.

Under the overarching theme of ‘an engaged community with a clear vision for the future development of the shire,’ the broad themes which will be provided as a starting point for discussions with the community on the Council Plan 2013-17 and a new Community Vision 2050 are:

  1. Diversify revenue streams to reduce pressure on rates;
  2. Better engage with the community and work collaboratively with them;
  3. Upgrade and develop appropriate modern community service and facilities as Council can afford them;
  4. Attract new business and upgrading the character and attractiveness of our towns;
  5. Work with the business community to diversify business and employment opportunities;
  6. Implement an integrated approach to development that incorporates community and physical infrastructure and financial modelling;
  7. Work with stakeholders to raise the political awareness of state and federal decision makers of local and regional issues;
  8. Improve communication with residents;
  9. Work towards improving the sustainability of finances for the shire;
  10. Pursue best practice in organisational development and operations of the organisations.

The legislative constraints on the development of a Council Plan make it difficult to undertake an extensive community engagement process to gather the views, aspirations and priorities of a diverse community in the narrow window of time available under the Local Government Act 1989. Far greater flexibility exists in the development of a new Community Vision 2050.

It is envisaged that as well as the councillors, the project officer and appropriate council staff, the working committee developing the Community Vision 2050 will include up to 10 members of the community representing various sectors of the community. Expressions of interest will be sought.

Regular information and progress updates will be presented to Council through Briefing Sessions and draft Community Vision documents presented to Council at Public Presentation sessions.

It is anticipated that the Community Vision 2050 Committee will present a final document to Council for adoption by September 2014.

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