With Mayor Cr Brett Tessari claiming it as a great opportunity to set out how council will work with the community going forward, Bass Coast Council is seeking feedback to its draft Community Engagement Policy 2021.
But you’d best hurry if you want to add your voice, because that feedback door slams shut on Sunday, January 17.
Using many fine words, council is claiming to be committed to actively encouraging the community to be involved in local government through community engagement.
But is council sincere and genuine in its claim?
For community members such as myself who take an interest in how council behaves, there is good reason to be sceptical.
Why so?
Well for starters, this new policy is not an engagement initiative driven from within council.
It is instead a requirement imposed on all councils by the state government, and it is due in March this year. The policy must include the principles of deliberative engagement and be developed in consultation with the community.
And whilst council has known of this requirement for many months, as usual it offers little time for community response.
Not a great start, eh?
And let’s not forget that just four months ago Bass Coast Council introduced restrictive new governance rules, some of which fly in the face of community engagement.
Similarly, let’s not forget the fervent determination of some previous councillors to prevent the introduction of livestreaming, an undeniably essential service to enhance engagement. Despite the community’s clear call for livestreaming, in the end the pandemic restrictions were the only force strong enough to compel councillors to abandon their opposition.
And there was also council’s embarrassing failure of engagement during the recent debacle of the proposed San Remo Foreshore Regional Skate Park.
But it’s now a brand-new year.
And we have a new council with some brand-new councillors.
Perhaps the new councillors genuinely and sincerely do seek community engagement.
And perhaps some of the re-elected councillors have had an epiphany, and they too now also genuinely and sincerely seek community engagement.
Only time will tell.
Let’s hope that it will not turn out to be as described last month by Cr Kent, when referring to Amendment C150B, “It’s just a ‘tick the box and let’s move on exercise”.
To view the draft policy and provide feedback, visit basscoast.vic.gov.au/engage.
Kevin Griffin, Wonthaggi.