The Mirror News

Plan for Foster’s future

WOULD you like to see a pedestrian crossing in Foster’s main street?

Should there be a designated parking area in Foster for caravans?

Is there a need for a footpath up Church Hill Road – or out to the cemetery, or anywhere else in Foster?

Now is the time to have your say.

Community input is sought for ideas to make Foster an even better place to live, work and play.

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.

A major effort to gauge the community’s priorities will be made at a Planning for Real exercise as people exit the Foster polling booth for the State Election on November 27.

The process kicked off last Friday evening with an informal information session held for representatives of community groups.

Around 30 representatives of groups as diverse as Foster Cricket Club and Foster Chamber of Commerce and Industry gathered at the Exchange Hotel, where FCA president Larry Giddy got Bill Gurnett, an accredited presenter of Planning for Real, to explain the methodology which gives the community such a powerful voice.

Bill explained that Planning for Real is founded on the belief that local people have the ideas, skills and experience to shape their own communities.

“It’s a non-threatening process in which you don’t have to be articulate,” he said.

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. These will then be collated and a strategic plan drawn up.

At Friday’s information session, Larry Giddy invited the community group representatives in attendance to help stimulate people’s thoughts about what needs to happen to improve Foster, by showcasing their own groups’ issues and ideas on poster-sized boards they took away with them which will be displayed on Election Day.

Larry had already got the ball rolling by drawing up a board recommending a pedestrian crossing for Foster’s main street. He illustrated the point with photographs showing how fraught with danger it is for elderly and disabled people, in particular, to get across the road at the moment.

Larry said that at the last Planning for Real® exercise held in Foster in 2004, boards from 24 community groups prompted nearly 2,000 ideas which translated into 52 key projects.

“Amazingly, around 80 per cent of these projects are now either complete or well on their way to completion. They include the establishment of a children’s playground at the showgrounds, improving access to childcare, extending the footpath to the hospital and rail trail, re-building the bridge over Stockyard Creek, reducing the speed limit in town – and many more.”

As happened in 2004, the Planning for Real process will begin with visits to the local schools, where the children will be invited to contribute ideas.

“It’s quite unusual to get kids involved in planning processes, but it is really appreciated. It epitomises what Planning for Real is all about. It’s a friendly, informal, colourful event where everyone has a say,” said Bill.

Community groups who were unable to send a representative to last Friday’s information session are invited to collect a board from Foster Butchery and brainstorm their groups for ideas. Completed boards should be delivered back to the butcher shop by November 25 so that they can be displayed at the Planning for Real exercise at the polling booth on Election Day, November 27. For further information telephone Larry Giddy on 0418 537 034.

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