What would you do with a spare half a million dollars?
Buy a house perhaps or maybe setup your kids – as a recent federal treasurer suggested – with homes of their own?
Now here is a story of what our own South Gippsland Shire Council did with a spare half a million dollars, starting way back in the year 2010.
First, employ a strategic planner for three years.
Then, engage two planning consultancy firms. Then form a steering committee of senior council staff, two councillors and reps from the consultancy firms.
Step 2: Work hard for three years across the entire shire and after drafts, public consultations, blah, blah; produce a grandly titled ‘Housing and Settlement Strategy’.
Step 3: Submit the strategy to a council meeting for approval. Outcome of the meeting was that the council directed council officers to seek approval from the Victorian Planning Minister. This was in 2013.
I would like to talk about the next step, but nothing has happened for the past three years.
Basically, this grand strategy has been left on a metaphoric shelf.
Many enquiries to the shire by an number of ratepayers directly affected by this strategy has drawn the usual excuses – not enough staff, other priorities and the best excuse of all – “we now have a new Victorian Planning Minister who probably won’t approve many aspects of the Housing and Settlement strategy”.
Sad, isn’t it! Sadder still about who has to pick up the half a million dollar cost for this strategic plan.
Shire planning staff are now about to take the plan back off the metaphoric shelf and start working on preparing a submission for the Planning Minister.
This is some three years after the directive from the council meeting back in 2013 and a full six years since the process started. Now my question is, naturally, who is responsible?
Councillors normally take the blame for any waste of ratepayers’ money.
Maybe a little blame can be attributed here for not following up on the directive from the council meeting back in 2010.
But no, in my opinion, the responsibility here lies with council’s own staff and in particular the planning management staff.
Seriously, how can the words ‘planning and strategy’ be used by a department that practises neither.
Maybe there is someone in the shire who is thinking of running in the upcoming elections who will bring the excess and waste of the South Gippsland to account.
Maybe there will be more than one, and maybe these people will look beyond the bickering and disagreements that fragment the council at the moment.
And then, just maybe, they will bring the management of the shire to account for some of the ludicrous decisions and waste that all of us have to bear through the downright extortion of funds, in the guise of annual rates, to pay for the ongoing waste that council officers preside over.
Michael Buckingham, Nyora.