On Wednesday (19th Feb) I participated in the Meet the Candidates – Hosted by Maleny Forums. In addition to our introduction, we were required to respond to two set questions. Here is the second of those and my response. The first question can be found here.
How do you plan to consult with and involve the community in decision-making around key matters affecting Division 5.
Let me start by reiterating something I said earlier.
Hinterland towns have different characters, aspirations, emphasis and priorities that well may not be the same as for coastal communities.
Hence it makes sense for council to consult early with highly engaged local communities for improved efficiency in developing outcomes that attract broad community support.
I have noticed that workable solutions are often found once an issue is brought to a head.
One example that comes to mind is when council was about to change the playground equipment in Cooke Park. The equipment was due for replacement and council had put forward what only could be described as, a plastic fantastic. The proposal was promptly rejected by the community, it didn’t reflect the character of the town, so it was back to the drawing board. Wasted time, wasted, effort wasted money and much community angst.
So, my aim is to move that problem solving element to the front of the process rather than reluctantly calling it in at the end .
Being proactive rather than reactive.
I would like to see more of the push model rather than the pull model for community consultation.
What does that actually mean? It means that important issues and information affecting the lives of residents in a community should be “pushed” out to them, rather than relying on them to stumble upon it or find out about it through signs on blocks of land and notices buried in the back of newspapers.
And I believe that there is not just a need to simply disseminate information but to also provide context and to help people understand the implications or ramifications of the information, especially around critical areas such as the town plan. To assist residents understand what it means to them.
One thing that working in the media has taught me is don’t start forming a judgement until you’ve processed a full range of views.
I would be seeking to develop linkages with appropriate groups and stakeholders within the community. But I would want to verify that the views being expressed to me on behalf of community are truly representative.
I think social media and council communications have an increasingly important role to play. The greater use of electronic communication opens up the ability to seek a wider range of views quickly while at the same time I would not be abandoning more traditional methods.
When it all boils down to it. Each of us on the stage tonight is applying for a job. The job of representing the needs and desires distilled from our individual communities.
My commitment is to consult early, consult widely (across communities and demographics), consult meaningfully and evidence based, to be impartial and operate in good faith.
We’re in this together.