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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Council casual about failure in its governance

More than a month after DCSCA revealed attempts to fabricate the Minutes of a council meeting, the City of Greater Geelong has failed to address why its governance procedures allowed the attempt to happen.

On 28 January and February 7 2011, DCSCA revealed (on drycliftdays) attempts to fabricate the Minutes of the council meeting on 25 January 2011. The draft Minutes of that Meeting (posted on the CoGG website) recorded a council officer stating that the council will issue a report concerning public health issues associated with a proposed drain in the Central Road area of Drysdale. In fact, the officer had stated that the council hadn't examined those public health issues, i.e. no such report existed. DCSCA told the council that the draft Minutes were inaccurate. The council then posted a revised version on its web site that was even less accurate, attributing to the officer a whole new paragraph about public health issues that he didn't say on the night.

The draft Minutes were being used to give credence to the council's assertion that the Central Road drain is a matter of public health, rather than a way to enable Pinnacle Holdings to build a retirement village there. These assertions are being used to justify - after the event - the highly contentious 'Special Charge' of many thousands of dollars that councillors voted unanimously on 25 January to levy on each household in the Central Road area.

The extraordinary events around the draft Minutes are made even more so by the fact that the council has a 'Governance' portfolio (Cllr. Jan Farrell) and a whole 'Governance' department. Unless and until this failure in the council's governance is corrected, citizens (and councillors) can have no confidence that the events and decisions in council meetings will be reported accurately in the Minutes.

DCSCA asked the Manager of the council's Governance department to explain how these extraordinary events could have happened. In response, the Mayor, Cllr. John Mitchell, assured DCSCA by e-mail (7 February) that he would discuss the events with the council's CEO, Mr. Stephen Griffin. We replied that we would be happy to contribute positive suggestions to that discussion if it was thought appropriate; and that we looked forward to learning of the outcome.

After a month, DCSCA had heard from neither Cllr. Mitchell nor Mr. Griffin, so on 11 March we asked Cllr. Mitchell (by e-mail) how he and Mr. Griffin had decided to respond to the failure in the council's governance procedures. The Mayor's Executive Assistant replied on his behalf that day, stating that the council's 'Manager of Governance ... is currently drafting a letter of response (that) will be finalised next week and mailed to you in due course.'

That response is reminiscent of a standard mathematics exam question: 'If it takes one council Manager one week to write one letter, how long would it take two council managers to write two letters?' Your rates at work!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Council cautious about local economy

On 23 February, Committee members* of the Drysdale & Clifton Springs Community Association (DCSCA) discussed the prospects for the local economy with Mr. Terry Demeo, Head of the Economic Development Unit of the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG).

DCSCA had been pressing for this discussion for months. It is concerned that without detailed plans and support for local economic development, Drysdale & Clifton Springs will become a 'dormitory town' for Geelong and Melbourne. Over the next few years, the local population is planned to increase significantly - starting with the 1,500 houses in Stage 1 of the Jetty Road development. However, there is no economic plan for the area to ensure that these newcomers have jobs and so the increase in population will lead inevitably to increased commuting - a significant source of greenhouse gases, including Carbon Dioxide. Further, these new commuters will create wealth elsewhere - wealth that won't be invested in Drysdale & Clifton Springs. No new investment means no new local firms and jobs ... so more commuting!

Mr. Demeo outlined CoGG's economic strategy, which is part of the developing G21 regional economic strategy.** It seeks to build on Geelong's traditional strength in manufacturing by promoting advanced manufacturing, especially of health-related products. Queensland business consultants AEC Group are developing the strategy and will consult individual businesses, but not individual towns. In the meantime, under the banner 'Future-Proofing Geelong', CoGG is lobbying the federal government on behalf of local businesses such as Alcoa, Shell and Blue Circle, which are likely to be affected if a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is introduced. Climate Works Australia is set to produce a Regional Low Carbon Growth Plan for the Geelong region in 2011.***

Applying the Armstrong Creek model?
The DCSCA reps. asked Mr. Demeo why CoGG's commitment to providing local jobs as an integral part of the development of Armstrong Creek isn't being applied elsewhere - e.g. to the Bellarine Peninsula. They accepted that there isn't nearly as much vacant land available on the Bellarine that there is at Armstrong Creek, but suggested that a scaled-down version of the Armstrong Creek model could be applied on the Bellarine.

Mr. Demeo responded that neither the Moolap Industrial Estate nor Point Henry (dominated by the Alcoa works) is sewered, thus limiting opportunities to develop them further; but the mussel hatcheries offshore will be expanded. He said that in his view, creating the Drysdale bypass is the biggest and best way to develop the local economy; that the economic development of the towns bypassed by the Hume Highway justified this view; and that DCSCA should work with other interested groups on the Bellarine Peninsula to secure the funding required from Vic Roads.

In the meantime. Mr. Demeo advised local business to take advantage of the workshops run by Geelong-Otway Tourism; and offered to set up a workshop in the Drysdale/Clifton Springs are at which local business would be invited to participate in a 'SWOT Analysis'. This exercise would identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats around the local economy and would be a first step in growing the local economy. (The current buzzword for this process is, apparently, 'Economic gardening'.) He said that his Unit would invite the major businesses to participate and it would be up to DCSCA to recruit others. The DCSCA reps. said that DCSCA would certainly like to accept the offer of a SWOT workshop and that fairly extensive preparation would be needed to ensure its success.

Where next?
After meeting Mr. Demeo, the DCSCA reps. discussed ways to make a SWOT workshop a success. These included: an ongoing 'campaign' (perhaps with its own logo) to encourage each local business to participate in the workshop; a 'business expo' at which local businesses could meet each other; and a 'business vision' session before the workshop, in which an inspirational speaker would encourage business owners to brainstorm ideas.

We felt that end-August was a good target date for the workshop, because between now and then there are two Springdale Business Network breakfasts and two DCSCA Public Meetings at which to promote the workshop.

* The Committe members were Doug Carson (President), Anne Brackley (Treasurer) and Patrick Hughes (Secretary)

** G21 is an association between five local councils - City of Greater Geelong, Borough of Queenscliff, Golden Plains Shire, Colac Otway and Surf Coast Shire. 76.6% of G21's funds come from the City of Greater Geelong.

*** The Plan was announced on 15 October 2010 (i.e. before the state government election). See The Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia (2010) by Climate Works Australia:

Bellarine associations formalise relationships

On 16 February, community associations across the Bellarine decided to formalise their relationships with each other, in order to operate more effectively.

For the past three years, the nine associations - including Drysdale & Clifton Springs Community Association - have been meeting quarterly as the Affiliation of Bellarine Community Associations (ABCA)*. Each meeting is hosted by a different association, which also provides the chairperson for that meeting.

In the last year, ABCA as produced or adopted several formal policies about, for example, infrastructure on the Bellarine and local government consultation practices. It organised a community election forum around last year's Victoria state election and is conducting a mid-term review of the City of Greater Geelong's Bellarine Strategic Plan.

ABCA has now decided that it will adopt a more formal structure and operation. Thus, from its next meeting it will have a Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer, each of whom will be elected annually; and it will become an incorporated body ('ABCA Inc.'). The changes have been prompted partly by ABCA's growing role as a policy-making and advocacy body and partly because it has been invited to contribute to the Regionalise Land Use strategy being developed by the G21 organisation**.

* The nine members of ABCA are: Barwon Heads Association, Drysdale/Clifton Springs Community Association Inc., Indented Head Community Association, Leopold & District Community Association Inc., Ocean Grove Community Association, Point Lonsdale Civic Association, Portarlington Community Association, Queenscliff Community Association and St. Leonards Progress Association.

** G21 is an association between five local councils - City of Greater Geelong, Borough of Queenscliff, Golden Plains Shire, Colac Otway and Surf Coast Shire.

DCSCA meets Cllr. Rod Macdonald (5)

On 4 February, DCSCA Committee members met Councillor Rod Macdonald in Drysdale. This was the fifth of a series of quarterly meetings that DCSCA has initiated with the two City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) Councillors whose wards coincide with DCSCA's area - the other is Councillor John Doull*.

First, we said yet again that we have still not received a reply from Mr. Paul Jamieson (CoGG's Manager of Community Development) to DCSCA's letter to him in January 2010 about CoGG proposals for Drysdale Town Centre. Cllr. Macdonald has said at three previous quarterly meetings (May, August and November 2010) that he would raise this with Paul Jamieson, but nothing has happened. Cllr. Macdonald then said that CoGG's proposals for Drysdale town centre are only a starting point for discussions at some indeterminate time in the future, when there will be plenty of opportunity for local people to put their views.

Those proposals include developing the existing Drysdale library. Cllr. Macdonald said that state government money had been committed to this project, which will now proceed. We asked Cllr Macdonald whether the new state government had started to implement its pre-election promise to produce local Statements of Planning Policy for four areas in Victoria - one of which is the Bellarine Peninsula. He had seen no sign of this initiative.

This led us to ask what are CoGG's priorities for the Drysdale/Clifton Springs area and he said that CoGG will decide its priorities at a special meeting before it announces its Budget for the 2011/12 financial year.

On the broader topic of community consultation, we asked Cllr. Macdonald whether he knew of any progress in CoGG's internal review of its consultation policies, but he didn't. A similar exchange happened at our last quarterly meeting with him on 5 November 2010.

Second, we asked Cllr. Macdonald whether anything had happened since our last 1/4ly meeting with him about providing 'welcome/what's on' signs at entrances to our towns. He said that they could be provided through his Councillor Community Grants fund and asked us to contact CoGG's Engineering Services division.

Next, there was a brief discussion about the Lake Lorne Masterplan and the Masterplan for the proposed regional sports/recreation hub (at the junction of Andersons Road and Grubb Road in Drysdale), each of which is being exhibited for public comment. We said that CoGG's consultation process around the Lake Lorne Masterplan had been excellent (but SO slow!) and that we hope that consultation around the sports/recreation Masterplan would be as good. Funding for the sports/recreation hub is in question, as the current State government has made no commitments for Drysdale, and the various grant programs that they may implement are yet to be announced.

Finally, we returned to the issue of local economic development. DCSCA has long expressed its concern that while there are detailed plans to expand the local population considerably, there are no equivalent plans to provide diverse jobs for all the newcomers. DCSCA has tried for some time to meet CoGG's Economic Development Unit to discuss this issue and at our last meeting, Cllr. Macdonald had said that he would ask the Unit to talk to us about our concerns. This didn't happen and Cllr. Macdonald said that he would again ask the Unit to contact us.

We said that the forthcoming Festival of Glass would be an ideal occasion on which CoGG could announce new support (e.g. business advice, mentoring, networking) for small art and craft business on the Bellarine; Cllr. Macdonald posed a counter-suggestion - that we invite the Engineering Cluster of the Geelong Manufacturing Council to have a stall at the Festival of Glass.

DCSCA's next quarterly meeting with Cllr. Macdonald will be on Friday 6 May 2011. Any residents of the Drysdale/Clifton Springs area are welcome to ask DCSCA to raise any issue of concern with Cllr. Macdonald.

* Our previous quarterly meeting with Cllr. Doull was meant to happen on 12 November 2010, but he didn't appear. Subsequently, Cllr. Doull has asked DCSCA if he could renew our quarterly meetings and we've agreed.