SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

SOMETIMES you have to wonder at how our local councils make the decisions that they do, how they decide to spend money on this project and not that one, how they decide to take action on one thing but not another.

But, in reality, the council and its administration are following a plan, or a number of plans which have been prepared over time and which contain a number of aims, how they will be implemented, measured and reported.

Right now, both the Bass Coast Shire Council and the South Gippsland Shire Council have a number of plans before them that are open to a final round of public consultation.

Now is the time, not when you see the work start, to have your say.

One of the most important documents before the Bass Coast Shire Council, is not even of their making, the draft Bass Coast Statement of Planning Policy and proposed landscape planning controls, developed on behalf of the Victorian Government by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) as part of its Distinctive Areas and Landscapes Program.

These documents, on the engage.vic.gov.au website, have wide implications for the use and development of the local area by residents, farmers, business and visitors. However, while there’s a round of public consultation open until Friday, April 29, the scale of the proposals is beyond the resources of the general community who will have to rely on the council and others to protect their interests.

Both shires are also developing their annual budgets at the moment and these are plans for action and spending that the general community should take an interest in.

In South Gippsland’s case, because of the period in administration, the council has produced a broader suite of planning documents which will not only guide their actions over the next 12 months but also over the next 10 to 20 years.

One of these documents is the draft South Gippsland Community Vision 2040 which lists five overarching priorities for the future under the headings of Sustainability and Climate Change, Enhanced Natural Environment and Cultural Heritage, Shaping our Future, A Destination to Live, Visit and Enjoy and Healthy, Connected and Engaged Community.

Many of the actions proposed by this Vision, such as taking action to provide affordable housing, education opportunities, backing small business to create jobs, protecting farm production and developing the visitor economy would be supported by all. And it’s to be applauded that the council has gone out of its way to engage public opinion.

But, ultimately, the people on the council have been elected by all of the people in the shire, not just the 29 people on the community panel which directed the Vision, and regardless of what the Vision now says, it’s the council which has been given the community’s only official imprimatur to make its decision on behalf of the whole community.