RIGHT up front in the Council Plan for 2013-17 it says that: “Bass Coast Shire will be recognised as a unique place of environmental significance where our quality of life and sense of community is balanced by sustainable and sensitive development, population and economic growth.”
That’s not shoved down the back of the 17 page document that is supposed to be the guiding light for everything council does.
The issues of growth and development along with lifestyle and environment are right up there on top.
The shire council wants to be judged by how well it manages these issues, in fact, that’s its key ‘Vision’.
But take a look at a typical shire council agenda, and either the council is being distracted by other, less important matters or we’re not being kept fully informed about where the main effort is going.
Financial management is important, but it’s not number one.
Community consultation is a ‘key commitment’ in the council plan but it’s also not mentioned in the Vision.
Public art, dogs on beaches, tourist signs, organisational bench-marking, councillor expenditure, meetings attended by councillors… they’re all part of the vision but they’re not the main game.
Neither is having excellent shire offices or industry-leading personal development opportunities for staff.
What’s important is how well we are managing the pressures of growth and development, while maintaining and enhancing our lifestyle and unique environment.
This is where the council’s effort needs to be going, where it needs to be constantly striving for improvement and where it should publically assesses its own performance on a regular and thorough basis.
If the story which appeared on the front page of the Sentinel-Times last week, ‘Blackmail in the centre of town’ is any indication, and the feedback we’ve received since says it is, then the shire is not managing half of its key Vision well – the growth and development part.
No one is saying bow down to the developers but everyone is saying these matters must be dealt with in a helpful, timely and consistent manner.
And if the time taken to get the appropriate strategic planning in place for Inverloch, not to mention the profile its approval was given at the last council meeting, is an indication, then the protection and enhancement of our lifestyle and environment isn’t getting the attention it deserves either.
Certainly the hoops that the Inverloch Design Framework has had to go through from a State approvals point of view are significant but it can’t be acceptable that it has taken over five years to get to the document to the council approval stage last month.
There have, unfortunately, been many excesses across the town in the meantime.
Sure, the shire has got through, and still has before it an immense strategic planning program, and will always have lots of planning applications in the pipeline but these are the key areas of shire business and should be better funded, resourced and more closely assessed than they are.
We need to be striving for excellence in these areas and if the shire finally takes the decision that it can’t handle its planning responsibilities in-house, it should consider out-sourcing these services as some metro municipalities have already.
Local jobs, economic development and the vibrancy of our communities are at stake and should rightly be at the top of the shire council’s agenda, ‘balanced’ with lifestyle and environmental considerations.