SOUTH Gippsland Shire’s administration panel adopted a revised and expanded Community Engagement Policy at the virtual open council meeting held on Wednesday February 24, 2021, the first for the new year.
Replacing the previous three-page community engagement policy adopted in July 2018, a draft of the new six-page policy was developed after the shire describes as “an extensive community consultation process”.
The “Community Engagement Review” process took place through a public online OurSay survey and forum conducted between November 18 to December 2, 2020.
South Gippsland community members were invited to share their preferences for future community engagement activities via the survey and to review the draft policy through the forum.
The OurSay survey attracted 105 views and 61 submissions.
The forum scored a total of 281 “unique visitors” resulting in 156 ideas from nine contributors, 12 comments from four people, and 31 likes and zero dislikes from eight people.
Community members were asked whether and on what issues they would engage with the council, what topics and decisions were important to them, and to identify what types of issues they wanted their views on to be heard.
The survey also wanted to determine what were the most effective means of communicating with local people and groups, and how well the shire had done so far in involving the community in general.
Several suggestions from the community were received for the Community Engagement Policy and were incorporated into the adopted policy.
These included making all community correspondence accessible by publishing it on the council’s website and making it searchable by page rather than document.
Another idea was establishing a dedicated place such as the council’s e-newsletter or a website engagement hub where community engagement opportunities were advertised so interested parties could sign up.
The community also thought the Policy needed more detail on how the feedback is sought, and also to help community members understand the material that is provided to them for them to be able to comment.
The online survey responses and a 10-page written submission made suggestions for community engagement more broadly and will be used by the council staff when developing future community engagement activities to ensure they meet community expectations.
South Gippsland Shire Council administration panel chair Julie Eisenbise said she was “thankful to every community member who provided feedback for the Community Engagement Policy.
“Council understands the importance of being connected with our community and our Community Engagement Policy ensures that our community members are at the heart of our decision-making processes.
“Thank you to each person who took the opportunity to share their views on community engagement either through the survey, the online forum or by written submission,” she said.
“This feedback provides an outline of how we can meet the expectations of our community and opportunities for us to improve.”
A full outline of the feedback received as well as the full community engagement survey results and the written submission are available in the February 2021 Council Meeting Agenda at www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au/meetingsThe Community Engagement Policy is available to view on the shire’s website at www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au/policies