Council has released its Have Your Say survey questions for the Elsternwick Structure Plan. True to form, what is asked and presented leaves us questioning the value of any responses and what interpretations could be drawn from these responses.

The questions are very basic. They ask residents to assess whether or not council’s proposals would meet the stated ‘vision’ or ‘objectives’ for the area. This is broken down into distinct categories such as ‘heritage and character’; ‘transport’. Most simply ask respondents to click on one of several options (ie agree, disagree, etc). Accompanying the question there are separate documents awaiting download so that respondents may read and then answer the query.

One would assume that these documents highlight the key elements of the proposal and provide enough detail so that respondents have a clear idea of what the issues are. Not so. Instead we find that most of these accompanying documents are bereft of detail and instead filled with jargon and meaningless waffle. Here’s just one example on Heritage and Character.


  • The draft structure plan proposes to allow up to 6 storeys for heritage listed sites along Glen Huntly Road. Not once is this mentioned throughout the document that is supposed to provide respondents with information on this important aspect of the structure plan.
  • Jargon predominates. What on earth does ‘rich materiality’ mean and how would respondents interpret this?
  • Why aren’t we told that the heritage listed church is likely to be surrounded by 12 storey towers? And yet, given the above, we are still meant to believe that council  takes great care to ensure the heritage fabric of Elsternwick is protected

Given that this is the first question asked by the survey, residents are literally answering blindly – UNLESS THEY HAVE BOTHERED TO PLOUGH THROUGH the 70+ pages of the 2/11 agenda.

It appears that council is not interested in eliciting genuine feedback. It if were then surveys would ensure that:

  • There is a BRIEF listing of all major proposals up front
  • Jargon and waffle would be avoided
  • Questions would be open-ended

The crucial question then becomes, how will council ‘interpret’ responses when they are designed to be meaningless!