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Friday, August 13, 2010

DCSCA meets Cllr. John Doull (3)

On 12 August, DCSCA Committee members met Councillor John Doull at Geelong's City Hall. This was the third of a series of quarterly meetings that DCSCA has initiated with the two Councillors whose wards coincide with DCSCA's area - the other Councillor is Rod Macdonald, with whom we had our third quarterly meeting on 6 August.

Cllr. Doull had invited Mr. Paul Jamieson (CoGG's Manager of Community Development) to the meeting, because DCSCA had said at our last quarterly meeting with Cllr. Doull that we had received no reply to our letter to Mr. Jamieson in January about council's proposals for Drysdale Town Centre. Mr. Jamieson said that our letter had been replied to, that he didn't have a copy with him, but would send it to us.

On the broader topic of community consultation, we put to Mr. Jamieson the broader argument about council consultations that we have suggested already to Cllrs. Doull and Macdonald and to CoGG CEO Mr. Stephen Griffin. Our argument is that the council's consultation policy lacks any benchmarks of quality and any mechanisms through which to evaluate a particular consultation exercise; we want to improve this situation, rather than just criticise it, so we had drafted an alternative consultation policy for the council; and we see the draft alternative as a basis for discussions with councillors and officers, not as a definitive statement. We emphasised that our experiences of poor consultations were shared by other members of the Affiliation of Bellarine Community Associations (ABCA). Mr. Jamieson said that he had read our draft alternative policy with interest and that Mr. Griffin had invited him to attend his next meeting with the ABCA, at which council consultations would be discussed. Mr. Jamieson said also that he believed that Mr. Griffin had invited Mr. Lindsay Allen (CoGG's Manager of Corporate Strategy & Property Management) to that meeting.

We suggested to Cllr. Doull and to Mr. Jamieson that the council could improve its consultation processes without changing its policy, by explaining the goals, methods and timelines of a particular exercise to stakeholders. They agreed that it would be worth exploring the idea of some 'template' letters to stakeholders through which to do this. Everyone accepted that the council often has to meet statutory requirements in its consultations, but that within those requirements there can still be room for the council to explain the process, and enable and encourage people to participate in it.

We asked Cllr. Doull whether the selection panel for the post of Social Planner that the council is advertising currently will include a community representative. While this isn't normal practice, we suggested that since the focus of the job is as much on local communities as on the council, a perspective other than the council's would be helpful. Cllr. Doull disagreed, saying that it was managers' responsibility to judge people's suitability for a job; Mr. Jamieson agreed.

Next, we discussed the Submission Panel that the council has established to review its proposal to levy a 'Special Charge' on landowners in the Central Road area of Clifton Springs.* The council gave just three working days notice of the date when the Panel would meet, but pressure from DCSCA and others led to it being postponed for a month. We asked Cllr. Doull whether there was a policy concerning the amount of notice to be given of Panel hearings and he said that there was, but he didn't know the details.

We asked Cllr. Doull why DCSCA members and friends in the Springs Street area of Clifton Springs have received no response to their request to him and to Councillors Mitchell and Richards to discuss the Community Plan for Springs Street Reserve that they submitted on June 24.* Cllr. Doull said that councillors needed to be briefed by officers, so that they had a 'position' to put when meeting residents. He said that he had visited the site recently with Mr. Van Driel (CoGG's Manager, City Services) and that the two of them would discuss the site's future with CoGG CEO Mr. Stephen Griffin.We said that it might be more productive if a council 'position' was developed in partnership with local people, rather than presented to them as a finished product. Cllr. Doull disagreed. He also said of the Springs Street open space that, 'There's a commercial value that the council will want to realise.'; and he said that he would give us a definite date for that meeting to discuss the Community Plan that was submitted on June 24.

Finally, we brought Cllr. Doull up to date with recent DCSCA actions. First, DCSCA's suggestion that the council includes Clifton Springs in a trial of an electric car service in Geelong that it is negotiating currently with the USA-based Better Place Electric Vehicles. Cllr. Doull will visit a Better Place trial in Japan later this year. He applauded our initiative but said that it was too early to say whether a trial would happen in Geelong. He referred us to a report - Future-Proofing Geelong - that council had adopted at its meeting on 27 July 2010, because it contained several policies responding to global warming. Second, preparations for the Festival of Glass (February 2011). Third, DCSCA's next Public Meeting (22 September at 7.00 p.m. at SpringDale), which will consider how to generate local jobs and wealth in our community and will also be DCSCA's Annual General Meeting for 2010.

DCSCA's next quarterly meeting with Cllr. Doull will be on Thursday Novmber 11 at 10.00 a.m. at City Hall. This will be the first such meeting with DCSCA's new Committee as elected at the AGM.

Would you like us to discuss any issues with Cllr. Doull at that meeting? If so, please leave a comment below, e-mail DCSCA ( or write to DCSCA at P.O. Box 581, Drysdale 3222.

* For the background to this issue, see three earlier articles on the blog: Landowners to pay for developer's drains? (April 1 2010); A 'Special Charge' for developer's drains: DCSCA submission (April 12 2010); and Chasing a 'phantom value' (May 2 2010).
* For the background to this issue, see the earlier article on the blog: 'Community Plan' authors await councillors' response (July 23 2010).

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