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WHY WE NEED TO FOCUS ON OUR COMMUNITY TO MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS

With Local Councils trying to improve community facilities for the greater good of their local residents, it's not suprising that more and more residents are becoming synical about the promises being thrown around by local Councillors to keep residents informed of changes that may impact on the value of their own residences.

Community input is something that Local Council encourages. Every 4 years an election comes around where existing Councillors and those aspiring to make a difference to their local community put themselves forward to represent their constituants with the promises of great change.  Yes, we've heard it all before - "My door is open 24/7 - Email me with any concerns you have and I promise to address them for you - I will take your fight to Council as I am your representative." and so on. 

As with all politics, Federal, State and Local, generally these members of our community start with the best intentions, but fall short when they become part of a bureaucracy that does not live up to the expectations of the voters.

What is the best way for Council to bring proposed changes to the attention of the group within a community that will directly be affected by the actions taken by Council on behalf of the Greater Residential demographic?

How can this information be delivered in an effective manner than allows those within the community to make an informed decision and to "have their say".

Although a consistent source of communication to residents is a no brainer, it appears that with the age of technology, notification to residents varies depending on who is making the decision. It can range from Council posting a notification directly to the residents concerned, email their data base which may not always be up to date, letterbox drop where a large percentage of "No Junk Mail" signs forbid the delivery of such items, hold a public forum or advertise in the local paper? Is  social media affective with an aging demographic or, do they just put up a sign on a stick in the middle of a park for 4 - 6 weeks and when time has passed and little or no opinions have been received, go ahead and make the planned change based on the assumptoin that the community accepts this change or that there has been no objection?

How do any residents make an informed decision when information is released in small amounts to areas of the community that will not be directly impacted on by the change. A scattergun approach not only undermines the rights of the residents affected to have their say, but also directly affects the level of respect that Council receives from residents after the fact, and pro-longs the synicism and ongoing criticism which appears to fall on deaf ears.

While street lights continue not to work, security cameras are not installed in main shopping areas for safety of residents, decaying trees and unsafe pathways remain intact, our Council appears to spending money on facilities that they deem appropriate however may also affect the real dollar value of properties in direct proximity to that proposed change whose owners have not been given the informaion or opportunity to give their opinion on how they may be impacted on by this change.

If your neighbour wants to build an extension, or knock down his house and build something in it's place, they must issue adjoining neighbours with a notice directly allowing them to consider the impact of this action on their own property.  However it appears that in Counci's case, a community meeting may be offered even though it is not advised to residents that the meeting will be held, a "have your say" web page on a Council website might be established without anyone knowing it is there to use, and all of a sudden its a  "done deal". 

As residents of a community, we all have our rights to voice our concerns and give an opinion on something that our Council may do that impacts on our properties and their value. It is the responsbiilty of Council to contact all those residents concerned to give them that opprtunity, and not canvas a small number of people who are not directly affected and make that change. It is also the responsbility of the property owners who are given this opportunity to respond and make their voices heard.

Is it smoke and mirrors, just plain ignorance or a case of someone elses problem - we all have invested substantially to live where we live and we have the right to have our say. Don't give up this right and ensure you contact your local Council and Councillor to let them know how you want to be kept informed of changes that may affect the value of your property.

by Christine Carroll

Friday 28 Sep 2018

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