THERE has been a certain amount of marking time within the Bass Coast Shire since long-time CEO Allan Bawden announced his retirement some months ago.
He is due to depart the scene on Friday, February 14 and in general terms, his time at the helm will be judged as having been a conditional success.
‘Conditional’ because it will only be after the new CEO Paul Buckley has conducted a full review of service delivery at Bass Coast that the true picture will become clear.
And, with the local municipality having its first change in leadership since shire amalgamations, the community expects nothing less than a top-to-bottom, transparent review of all roles and responsibilities, including a review of where every single dollar is spent, as is the case at South Gippsland Shire at the moment.
Usually a new CEO can expect a period of grace while he comes to terms with his new role but in the case of Mr Buckley, he is coming from another Gippsland municipality and has sat on the regional Gippsland Local Government Network board so can reasonably be expected to hit the ground running at Bass Coast.
There are a number of areas of concern to the community with which he will need to make himself familiar and when the time is right, will need to make statements reassuring the community that these areas are being well managed.
The first of these involves the shire’s planning processes.
We are often told by building industry people and developers, as well as humble private home builders, with experience at a number of municipalities around the state, that Bass Coast’s planning processes are among the slowest and most obstructive with which they have had to deal.
The new CEO must address this claim and make his own judgement about its veracity and the need for change in this area.
There is also a concern within the community that too much of the shire’s scarce resources are spent on high shire salaries, a big staff, palatial office accommodation and other excesses while so many projects outside the council’s front door desperately need shire and government funding.
First and foremost the shire and its council need to involve and engage the community better in its decision making.
It needs to be clinical in achieving its strategic planning objectives so that everyone knows where they stand.
And it needs to develop a revised program of capital works across the shire so that everyone knows, in advance, what the shire’s priorities are and when the works will be completed via accountable project management.
In short, he should throw the current ‘shire plan’ out and start again.
Sitting back and acting on the present shire plan is not what this community it looking for.
Specific issues including the following come to mind:
• The provision of better waste services on Phillip Island
• Funding for pools at both Wonthaggi and Cowes
• Lack of progress on the Wonthaggi education precinct
• Special charge schemes
• Port of Hastings advocacy
• Local road maintenance
• Completion of neighbourhood character rules
• And many local projects that urgently need funding and attention
Bass Coast has the chance to make a fresh start in 2014 and as a community, we will be looking for leadership from our new CEO and a much improved performance from our councillors.