I have lived in Grantville for 12 years and have been actively involved with my community both as a volunteer and as a community spokesperson. I’m also co-owner of French View Caravan Park, home to 70 permanent residents, and I own several investment properties in the Bass Coast Shire. I pay more than my fair share of Council Rates.
In my experience as president of the Grantville & District Business & Tourism Association, the Residents and Ratepayers Association and The Grantville & District Memorial Park Committee of Management, I have had the opportunity to work closely with a variety of council departments and council officers. In my capacity of property investor and small time developer, I have also had direct dealings with the Town Planning Department.
The main issue for Bass Coast Shire Council is not that its employees aren’t diligent, hard-working and dedicated individuals, nor that it is bureaucratically ‘top heavy’, which indeed it might be, but that it’s officers are very ‘process focused’ not ‘outcomes focused’.
A great deal of community frustration arises from this endemic cultural problem of departments being so completely focused on ‘process’ that concrete outcomes seem to become an unnecessary distraction.
Consultations, facilitations, bureaucratic data chasing, safety auditing, daily e-mails, record keeping, are all part of the process of protecting and justifying one’s position within the bureaucracy. This is real and demanding work but it doesn’t achieve a lot in the way of concrete outcomes.
A community should not have to start a petition, collect signatures, have meetings, consult with the public, do a survey, collate the results of the survey, lobby councillors and present the case at a council meeting in order to get a fence around a park which is right next to a major arterial road.
Ratepayer money should not be wasted on paying exorbitant consultancy fees for an expensive report that simply identifies the obvious.
Long-winded processes in order to establish what is blatantly obvious, does not make for good relationships between the electorate and the council.
Nor does it make for an efficient use of ratepayers’ money.
Too often, tireless volunteers, developers and entrepreneurs come up against this type of ‘Bureaucratic Brick Wall’ which deters and frustrates to such a point that giving up and walking away becomes the only option.
The volunteers may simply give up but the developers and entrepreneurs find other more accommodating shires to invest in. Dedicated volunteers representing their communities genuinely want improvement and willingly work collaboratively with councillors and council officers.
Many departments have already established excellent ongoing working relationships with a broad number of community groups.
Event managers Frank Angarane and Jennine Temme work hard, not only on the many events within the shire, but in assisting communities to put on their own events. They are outcomes focused regardless of the necessary bureaucratic demands of their jobs and they get things done.
The work done by the Maintenance Department and Parks and Gardens, is visible throughout the shire. The garden displays in Wonthaggi are horticultural statements to be proud of and engender great civic pride. These two departments are also outcomes focused and the results of their labour can be clearly identified.
I’ve always had reservations about the Economic Development department.
As a businesswoman I’ve never understood how an Economic Development department could stimulate or encourage the development of business or enterprise. A business or enterprise can only gauge its success by its profit margin. If the bottom line isn’t performing then the business deserves to fail.
No amount of assistance from the Economic Development department will save it.
Economic development only happens when business and enterprise identify an area as a place worth investing in.
When investors see well maintained infrastructure, new building activity and potential growth they invest in that shire and contribute to the general economic development of the place.
If however they keep hitting the bureaucratic brick walls of the Town Planning Department who are more concerned with process than in assisting applicants to achieve outcomes, they will go somewhere else.
I firmly believe that our new mayor and the new councillors are sincere in wanting to affect change and progress in the Bass Coast Shire.
I am optimistic that change can happen but only if the processes are simplified, the red tape reduced and there is a dramatic change of focus, from producing elegant data flows to producing tangible outcomes.
Helen Zervopoulos, acting president, GADRRA, Grantville.