HORSHAM councillors have voiced their frustrations regarding community engagement while considering a petition calling on them to halt all works in the council's Transforming Horsham strategy.
The Transforming Horsham plans include the City to River masterplan, the Horsham Urban Transport Plan, the Open Space Strategy and the Horsham South Structure Plan.
At Monday night's meeting councillors agreed to receive a petition started by the Horsham Rural Ratepayers and Residents group which was signed by more than 2000 people.
The petition called for the suspension of all Transforming Horsham plans "until the acceptable level of community engagement, inclusion and transparency of processes in these and future plans by the council, has been resolved".
At Monday's meeting, councillors passed a motion to:
- Receive and note the petition.
- Note that the community engagement process for the City to River masterplan, Open Space Strategy and Horsham Urban Transport Plan were undertaken as per council's community engagement policy.
- Note that the community engagement process for the Horsham South Structure Plan is in the early stages and will be accordance with council's community engagement policy
- Confirm its commitment to further engage all relevant stakeholders as part of the concept and schematic design plans for each sub-precinct of the City to River masterplan
- Note that the specific points raised in the petition - including changes to parking in the CBD, closure of McBryde Street. impact of croquet club, lawn tennis club and miniature railing, and cost implications were considered by council at its November meeting
Here's what each councillor had to say about the petition:
"This is where people have gotten completely out of whack. Detail detail detail; we haven't got to that stage yet. The meeting with the footy club and netball club the other day was a classic, where they came in believing everything on that conceptual plan was going to happen. It is their facility, they should be making the decision as they will when we have the architects sitting there; everyone sitting around the table," she said.
"If (people) don't understand the difference between concept visualization and they can only think of detail then it's just really difficult. This whole petition was put out, a lot of people signed it believing it was all about parallel parking in the main street.
"There has been so much deception about this petition, it's been very dangerous, it's been very divisive, it's cause a lot of anger and angst in our community for absolutely nothing. I don't know why it was put out the way it was. I had phone calls from three retailers saying what's going on and when I explained it was not part of the petition they got really angry they were being fed this stuff.
"I'm really disappointed in the people who put this petition up. I have lost faith in people I respected greatly. This is just dragging the community down."
"This report is curtailing my notice of motion on the same agenda, I feel my value as an elected representative and I will protect my right to represent my community, and I won't have any fear about scare-mongering about the loss of state government funding," he said.
"Mr Mayor, we put out a material which was premature, that was generated by consultants in Collins Street (Melbourne), that actually know nothing about our community whatsoever.
"We talk about process and good governance and we blame everyone else, but the material coming out of council has been confusing, that's why the community has been left behind and asking questions."
"I want to go back to something I said last time: I want to see the plan go back out to the community for consultation," she said.
"It wasn't until we went to a briefing meeting and I voiced that opinion, and then I read through the documentation and said that it was. That's what we're doing in this next phase, so I'm not sure why we're getting caught up in something that's going to achieve what this petition is representing."
"For me it's so tough what's coming out of council trying to be optimistic about the future, and this will be used against me I'm sure, but this is the feeling I get from the sections of the community that I speak to," he said.
"There are a hell of a lot of other regional cities around the place in a much better position than us because they're not dysfunctional councils. How frustrating to be someone that wants to give back to their community."
"The stories have been trickling in of a disconnect between what was said to some people about what the petition was about and what the petition was said," he said.
"The other point I want to mention is to acknowledge all of the planning work. This petition is a big capture-all, it criticizes all the planning work council has been doing in 2019. The bottom line is what has been out to the community is a vision of what things could look like.
"There are points raised in the petition I think some of the people behind the petition should be grateful for: How much have we heard the voices requesting the council consider sporting facilities in the west? Well guess what? At our last meeting, council agreed unanimously to investigate the west option. I would have thought people would be excited about that, but... the silence has been deafening."
"(Removing angle parking) has been discussed in this chamber and has also been well-covered in our (draft Horsham Urban) transport plan," he said.
"People are starting to talk about Horsham, which is really good. We need a better football ground to get AFL football here, it's a fact. Instead of fighting about which way or where it's going to, let's get together put up some positive plans to get a city oval equivalent to other regional centres in Victoria," he said.
"We as Horhsam are supposed to be a showpiece. How are we going to get funding for our plans, for our visions, for our kids? This is what it's all about."
The motion was passed with Cr Radford, Clarke, Gulvin, Koenig and Power voting in favor, and Crs Grimble and Robinson voting against.
Ratepayers group responds
HORSHAM Rural Ratepayers and Residents president Di Bell addressed the councillors from the gallery after the motion carried.
She said the group agreed things needed to be improved in Horsham, but the council also needed to get better at listening to the community.
"What I've said since (the meeting with Horsham businesses over parking) is we need to work out how move forward and come together and put views from community not to have stuff put down to us at the finish, but to ask us first what's needed," she said.
Rescission motion dismissed
CR Grimble gave notice of motion at Monday's meeting to rescind a resolution from November's council meeting regarding amendments to the draft City to River masterplan.
Cr Clarke moved a motion to rescind Cr Grimble's rescission motion before it was heard by the council.
She said "council business should not be held up for such as long period of time and its puts in jeopardy the $500,000 state funding opportunity" if we delay consideration of this rescission motion".
Responding to questions from Cr Robinson about the funding Cr Clarke was referring to, the council's chief executive Sunil Bhalla said the funding was available through Regional Development Victoria.
He said the application deadline for the funding was "tomorrow (December 17)", and that it would be used to take the budget of the City to River works to $3 million.
Cr Grimble's rescission motion was seconded by Cr John Robinson.
Speaking about his rescission motion, Cr Grimble referred to a media release put out by the council after its last meeting.
It stated: "Cr David Grimble has advised of his intention to lodge a rescission motion in relation to the above changes as resolved by council."
Cr Grimble said this was false.
"My rescission motion is not about changes, in actual fact that was inaccurate and it is disappointing that a media release approved by you Mr Mayor has misquoted me inaccurately," he said.
"That initial (motion) had no less than 25 actions. You see the size of the report; there were significant standalone decisions that had many implications, including financial support, that were all bundled together.
"There were no opportunity to seek more detailed reporting or opportunity debate each one on its merits.
"There was also no opportunity to get clarity on what the motion actually meant, and that has no accountability, is hardly transparent and I don't support that approach. This is about procedure and the way we do business."
Cr Radford spoke against Cr Grimble's motion.
"I believe as councillors we need to look forward into the future and be careful not to look in the rear-view so much," he said.
"One of the reasons why we were elected was to show leadership and have an eye on the future."
Cr Pam Clarke said she would be voting against Cr Grimble's rescission motion.
"This project will be managed one stage at a time. It's a matter of going through the priorities and working out what we can get done," she said.
Cr Grimble was given the right of reply.
"This schematic design and concept planning throughout our city involves a lot of detail and you don't actually know Mr Mayor what that cost is going to be. What are the financial implications? We don't know that," he said.
"I'm not on about the merits of the project; if we get the basic foundation right at the start the community will come with us."
Cr Grimble and Cr Robinson voted in favour of Cr Grimble's motion, while Crs Clarke, Gulvin, Koenig, Power and Radford voted against.
Residents have their say
See council's full December agenda below:
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