Decision making at Monash Council does not appear to have changed. Residents using Gardiners Reserve indicate they have had no say in the choice of pitch to be laid, fencing or lighting. EM&U have been asking for several years for Council to consult with stakeholders at the beginning of the decision making process. Stakeholder representatives should be involved in the process from the very beginning and have a role throughout the whole process. Instead we see the usual token effort to involve stakeholders at the last stages.
It is hard to understand how Council has decided on a synthetic pitch yet has no information to pass to residents. On what basis did Council make the decision for a synthetic pitch? Has a procurement contract been signed? If so, with whom? During the 2016 election the community asked for transperancy. The Department of Local Government has called for transperancy. Monash Ratepayers has called for transperancy. Yet the decision about pitch at Gardeners Reserve appears to be far from transparent.
When will the ‘Have Your Say’ section on the Monash Council web site have the option for community members to add items they would like to have a say about?
Below: Letter from resident to EM&U 28 Feb 2017
Dear Empowering Monash and You,
I am writing to you as a resident of Monash with regards to Council’s proposal for a Synthetic pitch at Gardiners Reserve, Sixth Avenue, Burwood.
This major decision seems to have already been made in regards to the type of pitch surface, fencing and lighting without community consultation or understanding the community’s needs. Council are proceeding with a design for an estimated project cost of $2.9 million which will be decided on in the 2017/18 budget.
As residents, we were first informed by reading an article in the Monash Leader in January that mentioned the synthetic pitch, and not by council itself. We rang immediately and within a few days received a letter in the mail, with promise of a consultation in February.
We have since received a second letter inviting us to an informal consultation at Gardiners Reserve on the evening of March 9, with an opportunity to:
– hear about what is being proposed
– understand what the scope of works would be, if Council decides to fund the proposal in its 2017/18 budget
– understand why Gardiners Reserve has been chosen for the proposed synthetic pitch; and
– ask any questions we may have about e project and discuss any concerns.
We are very concerned that the decision to proceed with a synthetic pitch over alternative treatments seems to have already been made, and that we are being consulted very late in the process and are not being given the opportunity to have input into any decisions which will directly affect us.
Despite our requests for information on the decision process so far from Council officers, Councillors and the CEO we have not received any information, and are being told that we have to wait for the consultation to take place.
Worryingly, the consultation on 9 March is not listed in the ‘have your say’ page on Council’s website, and we fear that it may be limited to only one or two streets despite the wider community using this open space.
We hope that you will be able to offer us your valuable advice and support in this matter.
Harik, one of our founding members, has decided it is time for her to move on from EM&U. She will remain an active community member advocating for quality in aged care. She is also now mostly involved with a Dystonia Support Group (Neurological Movement Disorder) and a variety of organisations or health networks, providing input with the aim of improving the quality of care, accessibility of services and ensuring appropriate, accurate and accessible health information is provided to consumers or community members.
Harik introduced herself to us during the Save Monash and Elizabeth Gardens campaigns and she was soon a strong advocate for the group. Her personal and volunteer experience in both aged care and local government helped the group throughout the campaign.
As a founding member of the EM&U group Harik became the primary web site designer and posted 62 times. She worked with others to give the group a profile in the local community and, importantly, to give community members a voice.
Since the Save Monash and Elizabeth Gardens dispute there have been changes in the way Monash Council approaches the community and incorporates their feedback. The introduction of Listening Posts, and more recently streaming of Council meetings are moves toward collaboration and empowerment.
An issue which directly affected Harik was the Local Law restriction on asking questions in Public Question Time. Monash Council seems to stand alone in only allowing ratepayers or residents to ask questions. Harik was a volunteer in Monash and had been given an award for her work. As she lived outside the municipality she could not ask a question in ‘Public’ Question Time. This is an issue EM&U would like to see resolved: the community which makes Monash what it is extends beyond ratepayers and residents to volunteers, workers and visitors to the area. As in other municipalities, and as implied by the Local Government Act, everyone should have the right to ask a question.
As Harik moves on to other challenges she can be sure she has been a force in helping bring about change in Monash. She helped to give aged care residents dignity and empowerment during the aged care dispute. She helped build Empowering Monash & YOU to give the people in Monash a voice and support in having their say in local government.
All the best Harik. Don’t go away! We want to hear about your achievements. Remember there is space here on EM&U for you if you find yourself in Monash again!
As a newly elected Council is finding its feet in Monash this is a good time to reflect on the achievements and future role of EM&U. As always we welcome the input of community members.
EM&U was an initiative of a group of diverse active people, most of whom first met through the Save Monash Gardens campaign in 2013 /14. Throughout the aged care sale process the community contended Monash Council was not transparent or consultative. Aged care residents, their relatives and the staff were not involved in the decision process.
EM&U was formed to continue working towards better governance in Monash Council. The aim was to better inform the community of any future Monash Council plans, to advocate for community involvement in the decision making process and to ensure the community were listened to. We feel that EM&U has achieved significant progression toward achieving these goals over the last 3 years. In saying the EM&U has achieved this is saying YOU, the community of Monash, have achieved this. We thank you for working with us.
EM&U and community members supported or encouraged some of the following City of Monash matters:
An improved public question time
Community members have found Public Question Time is more of a brick wall than an opportunity for interactive communication and empowerment. It was stressed to Council on many occasions that the Local law relating to Public Question time should be reviewed to ensure that there are no barriers to community members asking questions and receiving appropriate responses from their council, about issues affecting them. EM&U has supported a change relating to Public Question Time.
EM&U approaches to Council on Public Question time received no interest or uptake. However, as candidates advocated for election in the 2016 Council election this issue was often raised. Why? Candidates knew this was a matter of importance to the community and they needed to work on community concerns to be elected.
We are pleased to say the first steps towards improving this situation have been taken by the newly elected Council.
EM&U have advocated for live streaming or recording of council meetings to be implemented, to ensure community have access to Council proceedings, especially for those who are unable to attend council meetings. This will also ensure a more inclusive and transparent Council.
Monash Council, under Mayor Klisaris, knocked our submission for recording and broadcasting back. He claimed it would cost $60,000 and the Council couldn’t afford this inclusive measure. (He did spend $37,000 on a lunch in Oakleigh.) He claimed privacy would be breached, yet the meetings are public anyway. Now, as the local government department puts streaming forward as a favourable transperancy measure, Monash Council acts.
EM&U supported the community for a vision of a peoples’ space in Glen Waverley and a healthier lifestyle for those living, working in or visiting the area. Several groups initiated submissions on open space on Glen Waverley Central Car Park. The groups combined and well-developed and researched submissions were presented to Council. The proposals included underground car parking with easy access to shops. A green and open space would provide an inclusive meeting place and as one real estate manager commented, ‘It would make Glen Waverley.’ Importantly, the proposal asked Monash Council NOT to proceed with the Expressions of Interest (EOIs). As in the sale of residential aged care dispute the Council went ahead regardless of the numbers of people in the community asking for a different course of action.
Throughout the community feedback process on this project the community appeared to believe the issue was whether or not the Glen Waverley Library was updated and modernised i.e. by shifting it to Central Car Park. This was not the issue at hand. There was no reason to stop the Library being updated and modernised on its current site. In fact, many in the community prefer this option. In this case the Council’s marketing was clouding community understanding. Many people still do not understand the high probability of high rise buildings being erected on Central Car Park alongside the library.
IMPORTANT NOTE:The Council has NOT announced the results of the tender process so please keep expressing your views on open and green space in Central Glen Waverley to your Councillors.
Residential zoning and development has been a huge issue of concern to people across Monash. Whether it is the creek escarpment, McMansions, the loss of sunshine and greenery or access to local schools, the increased development and changing nature of Monash has affected everyone. EM&U has given community members a place to voice their concerns. There is an unequal access to media and communication. The Council has a smooth media machine and access to publications. It is harder for the community and EM&U has done what it can to provide an outlet for community information.
EM&U supporters were active presenting to Planning Panels Victoria on their visits to Monash. At the last meeting the newly elected Council voted to accept the Council Officers recommendations on the Planning Panel Report.
The Monash community has frequently requested the Council to involve, collaborate with and empower the community i.e. use the higher levels of the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum http://www.iap2.org.au/documents/item/84
Looking into the future of Empowering Monash and YOU
The purpose of EM&U was to foster a community where all community members have access to knowledge, community services and media. Community members should be partners in democratic decision making in local government and engaged at the community level and be actively involved in advocating for areas considered a social responsibility, including quality in aged care and inclusive practice. We do hope that the Council will endeavour to make improvements and give the community an opportunity to have a say in the near future.
As key people take on different roles in their lives we question where EM&U is going. At this point in time the emphasis is on the Facebook page. Time will tell whether there is a role to play into the future. We welcome your views.
Thank you for your support and please, follow us on Facebook.