SWIMMING pools, roads, footpaths and public transport – these have arisen as key areas of concern for the ratepayers of South Gippsland Shire.
The fourth of a series of community consultations giving residents the opportunity to have input into the next shire budget was held in the supper room of Foster War Memorial Arts Centre last Tuesday night.
Shire officers, including chief executive officer Tim Tamlin, and several shire councillors attended the meeting, and there was a good turnout from the public of about 25 people.
On behalf of Foster Community Association, Bill Gurnett took the opportunity, at the start of the meeting, of showing the CEO and Cr Jim Fawcett (presiding over the meeting in his final role as mayor) the results of the Planning For Real event which had been held in Foster only days before. People had indicated, via flags on maps of the district, what improvements they would like to see for Foster.
The CEO then introduced the shire staff in attendance at the meeting, including new directors June Ernst and Jan Martin.
Mayor Jim Fawcett explained that the meeting, which followed on from similar consultations at Leongatha, Korumburra and Mirboo North, was an opportunity for people to have early input into the budget process. He said there would be further opportunity for comment during the formal exhibition process of the budget in late May.
“We’re looking for feedback on what we do well or don’t do so well and how we can enhance the services we provide,” said Mr Tamlin.
In simple terms that even the most financially illiterate could understand, he then provided an overview of the budget process, explaining that there can be many unseen costs which need to be considered. Giving the example of a barbecue, he said that as well as the cost of construction, there was the cost of maintenance and ongoing operating costs such as power and cleaning to be factored into any decision to build such an asset.
“When we want a new asset we must be mindful of the ongoing cost commitment,” he reminded everyone.
Lists of the extensive services provided by South Gippsland Shire Council were then distributed to the meeting, and people were invited to comment on which services are working well and where they believe there is room for improvement.
At all the meetings, and Foster’s was no exception, concern was expressed about the future of local swimming pools, with some people evidently fearing they could be closed. They were told that the shire is currently preparing an aquatic strategy and there will be plenty of opportunity for consultation. No decision will be made on any pool without public consultation.
Interest was also expressed at the Foster meeting in improving the public transport between Foster and Tidal River (there is currently only a bus service over summer) and improving road and footpath maintenance across the district.
The meeting wound up at about 9.30pm, after a shared supper at which members of the community expressed their gratitude for the consultation and for the opportunity to put faces to the names of shire staff.