Ratepayers group questions process
Agroup claiming to represent Horsham ratepayers and residents has questioned the integrity and legitimacy of Horsham council methods in attracting responses to a 20-year City to River masterplan.
Horsham Rural Ratepayers and Residents fear the Horsham council has adopted an organised school-visiting process as part of a community feedback and submission process to ‘skew results’ with children responses.
Group president Di Bell said Horsham had heard ‘ad nauseum’ that the council wanted to ensure views of the community involving the masterplan were heard.
“But has the number of replies become the focus, instead of the value and quality of the feedback and submissions?” she said.
“We think the answer is ‘yes’. Some parents of Horsham Primary School have reported on a Horsham council staff presentation to children at the school last week.
“On the surface this is not a crime, but it’s not appropriate when parents didn’t know, were not asked and might have a completely differing view of the proposal than those presenting.
“The most troubling part is that we’ve heard council staff suggested the children in attendance complete the ‘have your say’ questionnaire’.
“Mayor Mark Radford said at a public meeting on August 4 that community feedback usually represented
about one percent of our population, and he would like to see that increase to about five percent.
“Is this percentage total population including children, or a percentage of adults?
“Is this simply about number responses?
“Is this about an embarrassing attempt to gain perceived support for the councils City to River project?
“Certainly, any of the students would of struggle to understand the complex issues around community consultation and feedback on such a costly and controversial plan.
“As expressed by community members at the public meeting, these plans and reports are large, complex and time-consuming to work through.
“Cr Radford was asked, ‘what’s the rush?’”
Mrs Bell said further comments from the meeting expressed that a plan ‘of this size’ needed a six-month process with community involvement.
“Community members also expressed concerns that this is the last opportunity for the broader community to have input,” she said.
Mrs Bell said Horsham council officer Kevin O’brien explained the council would select some groups for further input during the next stage of planning.
“However, there was no explanation of how these would be selected and by whom,” she said.
She said the residents group had asked previously how the council would select stakeholders, who would select them and how the council would select project-control groups.
“These are very important questions which require answers because outcomes could be determined by those selected,” she said.
“Many in the community are still working on their submissions and spending hours reading the background and technical reports and talking with others.
“Some already believe they were wasting their time and that this community process is just to tick ‘community engagement’ boxes, while others have some faith in the process and hope submissions would be genuinely considered.
“Then there are others who believe this has crossed the line and have lost confidence in the whole process.”
“Some already believe they were wasting their time and that this community process is just to tick ‘community engagement’ boxes, while others have some faith in the process and hope submissions would be genuinely considered” – Di Bell, pictured inset