editors letterWE’VE never liked the word ‘stakeholders’.
It is one of a number of words and phrases that have been hijacked by relationship management “experts” and spin-doctors as a way to neutralise the competing interests in a debate or undertaking.
When the bureaucrats are forced to interact with the community, they will often include them among the ‘key stakeholders’.
But, to them, the community is really a problem to be dealt with rather than genuinely included for the diversity and practicality they can bring to a project.
A case in point is the dangerous intersection at Lance Creek where bureaucrats organised a ‘Key Stakeholders Meeting’ on site last Wednesday, November 5.
To give them their due, they were there to see what could be done to improve the intersection of Korumburra-Wonthaggi Road, West Creek Road and Glen Alvie Road after a crowd of more than 150 people had protested about a collision there a month earlier.
VicRoads, the police and shire officers were there, but oh dear, what about the other ‘key stakeholder’ – the community.
Certainly you wouldn’t have wanted the whole crowd there on the day but the likes of local resident Graham Bird, who organised the community action, Elwyn Matthews or some other representative of the group might have been asked along to provide some local knowledge and a community perspective.
But they weren’t asked or even told about the meeting.
The best they could do was come along with retiring local MP Ken Smith the next day and pose questions that could more effectively have been directed to the shire and VicRoads’ officials who are responsible for safety at the intersection.
They might also have suggested, as they did on Thursday, that police step up their surveillance of the intersection, and book people who don’t stop at the ‘Stop’ signs.
They were adamant, too, that a roundabout is what’s needed and they’re not giving up until they get one, short-term safety measures notwithstanding.
We know bureaucrats don’t really want to have a thing to do with the community when issues arise, and, at best, only pay lip-service to them as key stakeholders but the fact is that the community can be a great resource when it comes to solving a problem or bringing political pressure to bear and they should be enthusiastically embraced for what they can bring to a debate… not ignored or excluded.
Top shire officers, including the CEO Paul Buckley and Infrastructure General Manager Felicity Sist took a meeting with the group last week and have been pro-active on their behalf. They also described the ‘key stakeholder’s meeting’ last week as “a technical meeting for those to look at possible actions that may be undertaken”. Fair enough.
But please, if the community isn’t invited, don’t call it a key stakeholders meeting as you did on your briefing documents or else it might confirm what many suspect about the attitude of bureaucrats to the general public.