A PHENOMENAL number of people have been involved in re- sponding to South Gippsland Shire Coun- cil’s invitation for input on development of its Sustainability Strategy, with more than 1,100 in- dividuals either filling out surveys, attending consultation sessions in towns and schools, or responding on behalf of stakeholder organisa- tions.
Council’s Sustainabil- ity Planner Christine Hamilton said that 206 online surveys and 179 hardcopy surveys had been completed and sent in by individuals.
In addition, submis- sions were received from more than 50 agencies, while facilitated input was obtained at 22 pub- lic meetings and 19 workshops.
“We’re very excited because it means we’ve heard from lots of voices, ranging right through from people living on ur- ban blocks through to farmers with more than 200 hectares,” she de- lighted.
“From school students to retirees, people have given us their thoughts, although the vast major- ity of online surveys have come from people aged between 40 and 69 years.
“The outstanding as- pect that really dropped me with surprise was the amount of support peo- ple gave for paying ex- tra above their rates for the purpose of funding practical, hands-on sustainability or environ- mental projects,” Ms Hamilton continued.
“From our online sur- vey results, 34.6% were prepared to pay more than $20 annually for this purpose, 23.5% agreed to $20 annually, 14.8% to $10 and 6.2% to $5 extra per year, com- pared to 21% who fa- voured zero extra pay- ment.”
Another big surprise was that only 34% of re- spondents were Landcare members, a
group that might be ex- pected to respond to a voluntary survey on the topic of sustainability, indicating that sustainability issues are at the forefront of peo- ple’s concerns.
With some 92% of online respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the state- ment that Council had “a lead role” in sustainability and envi- ronmental management and information provi- sion, Ms Hamilton was buoyed by the commu- nity’s broader percep- tion of Council’s respon- sibilities beyond the tra- ditional view of “roads, rates and rubbish”.
She added, “At the same time, many re- spondents also ac- knowledged that Coun- cil could not be ex- pected to have the re- sources to do it all, which supports the concept of Council collaborating with individuals, net- works and organisations through a South Gipps- land Sustainability Alli- ance,” she commented.
COMING TOGETHER ON PRIORITIES
Understandably, “lots of comments and ideas have been submitted” which will take a while yet to analyse com- pletely in a meaningful way beyond the bare online survey statistics.
While the variety of views and expectations received will ultimately make the Sustainability Strategy stronger, Ms Hamilton anticipated that the variety of opin- ions will “take a bit of work to bring together” at the final facilitated con- sultation session.
Inspired by guest speaker and global re- search specialist Profes- sor Peter Fairbrother of RMIT, participants who attend the final session to be held on Wednes- day July 21 from 9.30am until 1.00pm at Leon- gatha Memorial Hall will be expected to work in groups identifying the challenges associated with the 12 sustainability
issues covered by the strategy and to prioritise them within each topic.
“We’ll be looking for really practical actions to address what the com- munity insist are the most important things to achieve at the local, mu- nicipal and collaborative levels; we don’t want a wishy-washy strategy,” Ms Hamilton stressed.
“The plan of action will then go into a Sustain- ability Strategy that will be put to Council for for- mal adoption.”
For inquiries about the final consultation ses- sion, keep an eye on the Council Noticeboard advertisements in local newspapers or contact Ms Hamilton on 5662 9314.
When Council is due to consider adoption of the Sustainability Strat- egy, it will be listed on the agenda for the rel- evant Council meeting, with the agenda con- tents and meeting times also being advised in the Council Noticeboard advertisements.