POOR weather saw last Thursday’s launch of Toora & District Community Plan transferred from Sagasser Park to Toora Hall, however it didn’t deter some 70 adults plus numerous children from attending the formal event.
A loudly-applauded performance of several songs by Toora Primary School Choir commenced the event and prompted smiles all round.
Colourfully attired as a ‘Town Crier’, Toora and District Community Plan Working Group member Roger Lette welcomed the audience and introduced another member of the working group, Mt Best resident Jeff Montague, who has agreed to be the first to take on the role of Group President, a position that will be rotated around the members on a three-month term.
After explaining that the Working Group has now been reinvented as the Toora & District Community Plan Monitoring and Review Group, Mr Montague spoke about the Plan’s development process “involving the town and identifying priority projects.”
He noted that a set of project teams took up specific actions to pursue under the guidance of team leaders, with some teams already progressing on their tasks and others yet to commence work.
Mr Montague was optimistic about this activity leading to results for Toora and district, and insisted the Plan would not be another document collecting dust on a shelf with the community’s aspirations “just drifting away and being forgotten.”
He urged the community to continue providing ideas, opinions and input to working group members at any time but especially when goals had been achieved, and when reviews were undertaken at six-monthly intervals.
“After five years, we start the process all over again!” he said.
“If we all get behind it and support the Plan, this town will get a lot larger.”
Community Strengthening Officer Marzia Maurilli, who has been the South Gippsland Shire staff member working specifically on the Toora, Welshpool and District Community Strengthening Project especially praised the young people of the district “as being a great bunch of kids who put their hands up because they wanted to help the town as well.”
She informed the audience that a Youth Group had already been started in Toora and that the first project chosen was to organise a bus service to bring the young people back after attending discos in Leongatha because “going to discos in your own town isn’t regarded as cool” and the V/line coach times weren’t suitable for the return trip.
Workshops involving both primary and secondary students from Toora identified a ‘legal graffiti wall and (art/film) exhibition’ as being the most favoured project, closely followed by the desire for a BMX track.
In turn, youth projects associated with the Great Southern Rail Trail and a Youth Group were also voted as projects with wider support.
Ms Maurilli, who grew up in Toora and returned to the district to work on the project, reminded that “the process doesn’t end here” and pointed out that changes to the Plan, the priorities and the project teams would occur over time.
“It’s an evolving Plan, not a static document,” she said.
A limited number of hard copies of the Plan were handed out, with more to be available in businesses in Toora.
Ms Maurilli also mentioned that the Plan can be viewed on Council’s web site at www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au.
(From the home page progressively select the links ‘About Council’, ‘Towns and Maps’, Townships and Localities’ and ‘Toora’; then choose the file link to the Community Plan.)
After the launch, Ms Maurilli explained that Toora & District Community Plan, would join with the (currently draft) Mt Best Plan as well as the Welshpool & District Development Plan to “inform the Eastern Districts Urban Design Framework Project undertaken by South Gippsland Shire Council with support from the Department of Planning and Community Development.”
TEAMS AND PROJECTS
The Plan lists the following priority areas for focus by the respective project teams:
- Alternative future of Prom View Lodge
- Assist Prom Country Aged Care and future owner/managers of the to-be -closed aged care facility, by involving wider community with options for alternative uses. Focus is on health-related use.
- Environment/Parks & Paths/Trails
- Develop Coopers Mount; Agnes Falls and a (town) Walking Track
- Stanley Street/Business/Tourism
- Establish a Toora Business Association; promote the town for tourism; find interim uses for vacant shops
- Street art project, including exhibition and film
- Develop a BMX track.
Like the other community plans already completed for settlements in the Shire through its integrated community planning processes, the Plan notes steps to be taken, time frames, partners/stakeholders and persons taking responsibility.
In some areas, Toora & District Community Plan still has noticeable gaps which presumably will be filled out as the six-monthly reviews come due.
While the community consultation process is outlined clearly, the statistics and identification of a range of “assets” are well covered, and the aims for each priority area are articulated, information on the projects and steps to be undertaken is thin.
For example the column listing steps to be taken to achieve a viable alternative health-related business at Prom View Lodge is mostly blank.
There are no timeframes provided for anticipated achievement of the fairly specific actions towards making Stanley Street more inviting, businesses more cohesive and tourism encouraged.
On the topic of parks/environment/trails, no one has been identified for taking responsibility for working towards projects, while with the Youth topics, only first names are listed, which reduces the chance of those outside the working group knowing who is involved.
Some of the actions are vague, for instance “developing a feasibility study” for Agnes Falls could relate to anything from improving tourism facilities on site to generation of hydroelectricity.
Given the time, energy and resources devoted to the project from both volunteers and Council staff, it is a pity that Toora’s initial launching point for the future seems to be less advantageous than those of other towns that have completed their community plans even though ongoing commitment through the monitoring and review process has the potential to make up for lost ground.