THE people of Foster and district enthusiastically embraced the opportunity last Saturday to put forward their ideas on how Foster can be made a better place to live in, work in and visit.
Saturday was, of course, the day of the 2010 State Election, and Foster Community Association (FCA) held a ‘Planning for Real’ event at South Gippsland Secondary College, inviting people to contribute their ideas as they left the polling booth.
“People were eager to participate,” said FCA member Linda Giddy, who was rostered on to help during the morning.
“There was a great turn out,” agreed fellow FCA member and ‘Planning for Real’ accredited presenter Bill Gurnett. “We can only talk in round figures at this early stage, but I would estimate we received over 1500 comments and ideas from about 700 people.”
Under the democratic and highly visual process that is Planning For Real, people are invited to place flags (up to three each) on a board with a large map to indicate the actions they would like to see happening in their community. They can add comments and indicate priorities. Two maps were provided on Saturday, one of Foster township, one of the immediate vicinity, and they rapidly filled with message-bearing flags.
“It’s an excellent way in which to receive a good cross-section of views. This gives the process great statistical validity and makes a sound platform for the development of a community plan for Foster,” said Bill Gurnett.
A similar exercise was carried out after people voted in the 2004 election. That was hugely successful. It is estimated that around 70 per cent of the projects identified then have been started, and in many cases completed.
Access to more children’s services was particularly highly sought after in 2004, and a Children’s Hub is now under construction in Foster.
Other demands which have been met include: new children’s playground, redevelopment of the showgrounds, securing of a visitor information centre for Foster, improving heating at Foster swimming pool, extending and upgrading footpaths, improving access for people with disabilities to Foster’s main street, fixing roads, establishing a community garden, building integrated walking tracks, completing the secondary college, replacing Stockyard Creek bridge (behind the churches), improving access to public and community transport, improving internet access, and building toilets on the south side of town at the showgrounds. A funding commitment has also been given and work will begin shortly on improving the lookout at Foster North.
This time the public contributed an equally diverse range of ideas. Foster Community Association has not had time to examine them all in detail. Broadly speaking, there was a lot of interest in the development of a park, including a men’s shed, on the former Foster Station land, and also great interest in ensuring the continuation of the kitchen garden program at Foster Primary School. A significant section of the population is keen to see improvements to the Foster streetscape and suggested ways in which the funding earmarked by the shire for the area could best be used – on improved parking and/or a pedestrian crossing perhaps.
As they were in 2004, local children were given the opportunity to contribute ideas. Planning for Real events were held at Foster Primary School and South Gippsland Secondary College, with the children, unsurprisingly, showing particular interest in improvements to the local skate park and swimming pool, but also making many other suggestions.
Over the next few weeks the members of Foster Community Association will collate the results of the latest Planning for Real exercise, as well as carry out some further consultation – trying, especially, to get visitors to Foster to contribute ideas. They will also set priorities and allocate responsibilities for projects, determining which projects can be carried out by the community and which require the backing of the shire or other responsible bodies.
The issues identified will form the basis of a new community plan that Foster Community Association will, with the help of South Gippsland Shire Council, focus on implementing over time.