Consultation –Principles and Practice
One of GERA’s most important concerns is the necessity for effective advertising of Council activities and consultation between Council and the community it serves. Council’s public statements on this are encouraging but its actions do not back up its public statements
An example is from the Glen Eira Council website – Community Engagement Strategy
“Community engagement provides an avenue for the community to become involved in local decision making and encourages collaboration from all members of the Community. Based on the principles of democracy, social inclusion and accessible government, we are actively seeking to involve members of the community in our decision making processes.
… We will work on an ongoing basis with the community to ensure that community ideas, concerns and aspirations are listened to and understood, and that community knowledge is harnessed for the benefit of all.”
We, more often than not, see inadequate and segmented consultation, along with scanty information. The most recent example is the Melbourne Racing Club’s Caulfield Village Development (also known as C60).
On some issues (usually minor) Council consults reasonably but on others (usually large) its performance is extremely poor – advertising is inadequate or late; obviously concerned organizations are not directly informed; the volume of mailed notifications to residents is inversely related to the magnitude of the project – restricting the volume and quality of feedback.
Although the Glen Eira News frequently states that “community consultation is a vital part of Council’s planning and decision-making processes”, such consultation appears too often to come too late in the process. “Community consultation” is treated as a mechanism to inform the public of what has already been agreed upon – to collect comment and to explain away why there is no need for amendment. Council does not appear to appreciate, except in rare cases, that consultation is a two way process of exchanging views and explaining the reasons for them. Consultation needs to come first for effective investigation and good outcomes. Putting consultation last is a waste of resources, time and community patience.
We make a strong plea to Council to reconsider the importance of this “vital part of Council’s planning and decision making processes”, and to recognize this in Council statements and actions. We also make a strong plea for Council to put consultation in its proper place and to adopt principles that can apply to all its planning decisions. This will strengthen both the Council and the community.