council-takes-public-consultation-onlineCorporate planner Kara Dunn, and Matthew Gordon from ‘Our Say’ show South Gippsland Shire Council CEO Tim Tamlin and Mayor Jim Fawcett an example of the new online voting system which will help inform council’s 2015-16 budget. D154214.

By Danika Dent

IF YOU could vote on the top seven projects for South Gippsland Shire Council, what would they be?
• A community hub in Nyora
• An equestrian and show-jumping centre at Stony Creek
• Free green waste
• Keeping pools open in Foster, Mirboo North and Poowong
• A dedicated soccer/athletics facility in Leongatha
• New libraries
• Free wi-fi
• Bringing the train back
• Taking over key recreation reserves’ maintenance and costs
These are just a few ideas that could be put forward using a new online program.
The council has partnered with OurSay, as a way to engage online with the community on council activities and services over the next 12 months.
The first consultation will be online from Monday, October 27 and focus on the 2015-16 budget.
“Historically, local governments tend to do their consultation on a budget after a draft has already been developed,” the council’s corporate planner Kara Dunn said.
“Under the Local Government Act, it’s essentially all they’ve had to do.
“But the feedback from the community was that council did not provide enough time and it was perceived to be too late to really influence the budget.
“We’re turning that around and doing the consultation first.
“The first discussions with the community will be on the budget on October 27 and will run online until November 14.”
Through the OurSay platform, community members will be able to suggest, discuss and defend its top issues and projects council should consider in its capital works program.
Ms Dunn said the platform will allow community members to campaign for issues and projects.
“Part of the way it will work is for people to generate votes on an issue, to talk with others and garner votes,” she said.
“Each person registering to vote will be given seven points – the top 10 ideas will be tabled to come up in community workshops [the first to be held in Meeniyan on Tuesday, November 25], and the top five ideas from the workshops will be up for more discussion with council.
“The top idea will see the community member who led the campaign invited to a Q&A session with the mayor and CEO to discuss it in more detail.”
While there is a clear correlation with the Community Plans and annual satisfaction surveys, with its community votes, ideas, campaigns and on-ground works, council believes the OurSay platform will encourage wider participation.
“The Community Plans will provide additional information and ideas for the budget discussions,” Christian Stefani, council’s customer relations manager said.
“Many of those community plans are up for review this year, but the main thing is – we had 100 people turn up in Fish Creek for their Community Plan, but nowhere near that for the budget discussions.
“We figure, why can’t we get that number involved in budget discussions?”
An online discussion, with forums, voting systems and moderated by council officers who can provide relevant data and information when needed, is also aimed to encourage out of hours participation.
“The advantage of online engagement is that people can participate at times that suit them, around their busy schedules,” Matt Gordon, director of OurSay, explained.
“It can be accessed from any computer, tablet or mobile device.
“It also enables residents to share ideas and discuss them in an open format, where everyone can see what is being discussed, which encourages people to share their ideas and see what other people are thinking about issues that are important to them.
“This is a great way for people to participate across a large geographical region like South Gippsland.”
Mayor Jim Fawcett encourages all residents to go online and register to participate.
“Council will run other consultation projects throughout 2015 using the OurSay online engagement platform,” he said.
“It is a great way to have your say and be involved in the decisions that matter for the community.
“For residents that do not have their own computer or internet access, there are several community facilities that can be used such as the libraries and the local community centres.”
The first budget consultation will run online from Monday, October 27 through to Friday, November 14.
The top ideas and priorities from the online budget consultation will be presented at community workshops to be held at Meeniyan on Tuesday, November 25.
For more information, follow the OurSay link on council’s website: www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au