Ratepay­ers group ques­tions process

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

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

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