We’ve pinched a letter written by a resident to council’s CEO asking some very pertinent questions.

I live on Inkerman Rd, Caulfield North. I am very concerned that Glen Eira Council is undertaking a community feedback process on the above proposal which has failed to satisfactorily involve the community and is being undertaken with indecent haste, presumably to meet the Council’s self-imposed agenda of having a decision on the route made at the last Council meeting of 2019.

My concerns on the community consultation are as follows
1. The Council arranged community meeting at the Caulfield Pavilion in February 2019 was advertised to be 2 hours. When it became clear that there was community concern about the project, the meeting was shut down after one hour. That was the first attempt to prevent the community from speaking.
2. The community was advised that a Community Reference Group would be formed in May 2019 to assist the Council and provide community input into the proposal. Despite calling for nominations, no group has been formed. In effect, the Council has decided it does not want to hear anything from the community until a decision has already been made on the route, even if the community group is of the view that the project is unwanted or has no merit. That was the second attempt at preventing the community speaking. I refer you to Clause 6.5 of Council’s Community Engagement Policy – “Council will encourage those affected by a decision to be involved in the decision-making process”.
3. The Council approved the Pilot alternative routes report at its meeting on 3 September 2019 and has only allocated a period until 14 October to hear community views. That period takes place during school holidays, when many people are away, and during the most important period of the Jewish calendar, when many people are busy preparing for the celebrations. This period is insufficient and disadvantages members of the community who wish to make their voices heard.
4. Council’s Community Engagement Policy states at 6.3 “Council will ensure that community engagement activities are well planned, coordinated, accessible and inclusive and will provide reasonable timeframes for contribution to all engagement activities”. The restrictive 6-week period referred to above in my point 3 is not a “reasonable timeframe”, particularly given the time of year. The engagement activities have only been advertised online, which excludes people with no access to a computer or internet. The September GE News publication contained no information on its community engagement page.
5. The on-line survey is very limited in allowing a person to give their views and uses technical language. The community is unable to make comments about the proposal’s merits or otherwise. The survey is heavily weighted to give Council the opportunity to select a route without even “hearing” that the current bike routes are adequate and no change is wanted or necessary.
6. The on-line survey is open to abuse, particularly by the bicycle lobby. There is no request for verifiable information. Accordingly, no weight at all is given to people who will be significantly affected by this proposal, being Inkerman Rd, Alma Rd, Dandenong Rd, and nearby residents.

Accordingly, I would appreciate a response to the following questions:

1. Why is the community consultation period ending 14 October 2019?
2. Do you think this time period of consultation, 3 /9 – 14/10 is “reasonable” and in accordance with the Community Engagement Policy? If so, why?
3. Can the community consultation period be extended to the end of November 2019? If not, why not?
4. Why does a decision need to be made by the Council in December 2019? Please provide reasons.
5. When is the Community Reference Group going to be established? How will it be chosen? Who will be selecting the members? What is the criteria? How many members will it have? What are the terms of reference? How often will it meet? If the project goes ahead, will the group continue to be consulted?
6. How can the Council verify the location/residence of respondents to the survey? Is any increased weight being given to the views of survey respondents who live in Inkerman/Alma/Dandenong/Orrong Grove? Will the survey results be available to the community? Will they be audited by an independent party?
7. Is the survey response a numbers game, meaning is the route with the most preference the chosen one?
8. Is the Council prepared to develop with the Community Reference Group a fair survey which records the respondents’ identity/residence and which is mailed in hard copy to all residents in the affected geographical area, together with a reply paid envelope?

Yours sincerely,

Whilst the focus of the above is on the contentious bicycle route, its ‘message’ has far greater import and typifies much that is amiss with ALL of this council’s ‘consultations’. We remind readers of the following which can only be seen as deliberate:

  • The simultaneous release of thousands of pages of documents that would require a herculean effort by residents to read, absorb, and then comment (ie structure plans, local law review, East Village)
  • Forums, meetings held at inappropriate times (ie East Village: 9 to 11AM and then 4 to 6PM when people are at work, or picking up kids and preparing dinner, etc)
  • Creation of so called Community Reference Groups where identity of individuals is unknown so residents are unable to contact their ‘reps’ to offer views; the failure to publish agenda items and record the discussion topics in the minutes of council ordinary meetings (ie Elsternwick South Renewal and East Village).
  • Online surveys that are skewed to provide results that endorse predetermined decisions. Or, surveys where readers are unable to view previous comments. No rationale has ever been provided to explain why some online ‘consultations’ adopt certain methodologies and others don’t!
  • Indecent haste indeed when it comes to major development projects such as East Village. Surely it is farcical to have residents ‘formally’ address councilors THE DAY AFTER submissions close?!!!!!
  • How many more times will some councillors apologise to residents for poor consultation and yet nothing changes?

We’ve taken the trouble to go through council’s list of current and past ‘consultations’. The list is presented below. It is clear from this list alone that residents are likely to be ‘consultation fatigued’ by the sheer volume that has in the past 18 months been thrown at them. Admittedly the various ‘consultations’ will not be responded to by everyone. People are interested in different issues. But the questions that need asking are:

  • Are all of these ‘consultations’ really top priority?
  • How much did it cost to produce the tons of paper/printing associated with all of these? Is it really value for money?
  • How many millions have been spent on upgrading playgrounds when no policy exists, and residents are screaming out for decent strategic planning, especially for our unprotected neighbourhood centres. Council’s ‘excuse’ for doing nothing is lack of ‘resources’. How many planners could be hired for the squillions wasted on some of these ‘consultations’?
  • How many of these consultations actually resulted in councilors adopting much of what residents said they wanted?
  • Why can’t residents have a say on budget priorities? If they did, then how many of the following list would be high priority?

Here are our suggestions as to how consultation should happen.

  • Relevant and accurate data is provided at the outset of major proposals, including costings and time lines for completion of projects
  • Discussion papers outlining pros and cons are distributed together with data at the start
  • Community rep involvement in all major projects that include open meetings to all interested; voting rights to reps; agendas and minutes published
  • Forums/meetings etc. are held at appropriate times

That’s enough for starters. Here is the list of the inundation from the past 18 months, excluding things like Budget and Community Plans.

Current consultations

Dog off leash areas

Keep Glen Eira Moving

Safe cycling corridor pilot

New Community Space for Carnegie

Glen Eira Community Voice

Bentleigh Eat Street

Pedestrian Safe Neighbourhood Pilot

East Village


Draft Social & Affordable Housing Policy

Local Law Review

Get Active: The Future of Recreation & Sport

Draft Hopetoun Gardens Masterplan

Local Park Proposal – Aileen Avenue, Caulfield South

Quality Design Principles

Integrated Transport Strategy

Community Gardening in Glen Eira

Spring Road Reserve Improvement Plans

Caulfield Wedge Dog Agility Park

Community Safety Plan

McKinnon Reserve Playground upgrade

Planning for Carnegie Swim centre

Rosanna Street Reserve open space upgrade

Bentleigh Hodgson Reserve

Draft Community Engagement Strategy

We need to talk about men’s sheds

Caulfield Park Masterplan refresh