By Michael Giles
THE future, they say, is decided by the people who turn up.
And never was this more in evidence than last week when the South Gippsland Shire Council used a whacky process to decide how to spend $1.6 million on capital works projects in Foster, Korumburra, Mirboo North and Venus Bay.
All conventional wisdom,
it seems, was thrown out the window.
There were no feasibility studies required.
No calls for local contributions or $1 for $1 government grants to leverage up the shire’s $1.6m into a $3.2m benefit or better.
Community groups affected or set to benefit by the shire’s largesse were asked for back-of-the-envelope type submissions, or not even that, and responses to questions about the need for such works were off-the-cuff.
No one knew for sure how much the projects would cost or what would actually be
In a throwback to the laissez-faire days of the 1960s, they just let it all hang loose, baby.
And only one lone voice, at the final, crucial decision meeting in Korumburra last Thursday night, to decide how that town would spend its $400,000 was raised in concern.
“The process is flawed getting those five ideas out,” said a bloke from the floor of the meeting, referring to proposals to improve soccer facilities, reconstruct the tennis courts, build a new skate park, extend the rec centre into a third court and construct a pathway to the secondary college.
All worthy projects but…
“The sample size is too small to get the original ideas,” he said
“And also tonight, working through the projects, that has come from a flawed process.”
Certainly there should have been more people in attendance, more community groups wanting a piece of the $400,000 action.
And for all the hype about the ‘Your Say’ process on line, and 226 people being “engaged” in Korumburra’s selection process, generating 47 ideas; there was no peer assessment of the success or otherwise of that way of doing things.
Ditto for the other towns, where it must be said, with a guaranteed $400,000 up for grabs, there were precious few people in attendance at the selection meetings.
Where the bloody hell were you, to coin a phrase.
For all that, the people who turned up, with vested interests clearly on their sleeves, came up with some pretty good ideas for works in those towns.
Maybe we should simply dispense with local councils and their processes altogether?
The selected projects will now go forward to the December meeting of the new council for a final decision. Whether they decide to go out for $-for-$ grants and more accountability or, in the spirit of the process so far, just let it roll, will be one of their first decisions to make.