Subject: A breakdown in trust between Council and the community

To: The CEO and All Councillors.
Council’s approach to dealing with the Berry community’s concerns about the Boongaree parking problems is an indication of a broader breakdown in trust.

At the Council meeting on 12 September, councillors unanimously agreed that there should be –
further community consultation with respect to potential acceleration of the Stage 5 parking and the siting of long vehicle parking”
 –rather than accepting the staff recommendation to dismiss both issues.

Why was the intervention by councillors required?

  • On 30 May, James Robinson and I met onsite with the CEO, Kathy Thomas and Kevin Norwood and agreed to cooperate and communicate regularly. The following actions were agreed–
    • Investigation of James’ proposal for fast-tracking Stage 5 parking
    • Council to include the location of LV parking as part of the upcoming consultation

Subsequently, Jane Lewis informed Cllrs that our recommendations, “would go a long way towards alleviating community concerns and respond to their needs, whilst not impacting significantly on project costs or safety.”

However, we soon received a reality check –

  • In June/July Council ran asurvey on the Get Involved webpage focused almost exclusively on the proposed additional parking west of Alexandra Street, with only a very brief and inadequate mention in the very last sentence– “including the long vehicle parking site.” Consequently, many complaints were received from residents who believed the survey was disingenuous.
  • On 30 August, we were told that a report had been presented to councillors a week earlier, but we were not told of its content.
  • On 8 September, after the meeting papers were posted on the website, we discovered that staff had recommended that both thefast-tracking of Stage 5 parking and consideration of alternative sites for LV parking should be dismissed.

Meeting on 5 October
As a result of the intervention by councillors, on 5 October James and I met onsite with Jane Lewis, site project manager Anthony Meta, new overall project manager Stephanie Cascun, communications acting manager Ryan Schulter and operations manager Kevin Norwood.

Unfortunately, the meeting was approached with an entrenched position that neither staging flexibility nor the community’s concerns about the location of LV parking would be considered.

Stage 5 parking – after James persisted in not accepting generalised statements of risk and explained how fast tracking could be undertaken, it was accepted that fast tracking of Stage 5 parking may still be possible.

Location of LV parking – when Stuart explained that the location was only agreed as part of the Concept Master Plan, subject to detailed design and community consultation, Ryan advised that consultation with the community had been undertaken by way of “informing consultation”, which consisted of telling the community that the location for LV parking was specified in the Master Plan and that it could therefore not be changed. This was an intriguing insight that councillors may wish to investigate in a broader context.

Minutes of the 5 October meeting
The minutes we’ve received bear little resemblance to the discussions held. All the points made by staff are included and enhanced, whereas most of our comments were omitted or there was a failure to provide necessary background as was done for the staff points.

We have sent the attached corrections to the author of the minutes and would hope that in future the normal practice of circulating minutes to meeting participants in draft would be followed by staff.

It is concerning that these incorrect minutes may have already been circulated to an audience including the CEO and councillors and provided them with an inaccurate account of the meeting outcomes.

We are disappointed that Council’s stated strategies to work more closely with communities has not become the cultural norm for all Council staff.

As a Community Consultative Body, we urge Council to adhere to the definition of consultation:

“The act of exchanging information and opinions about something in order to reach a better understanding of it or to make a decision, or a meeting for this purpose.”

James Robinson &
Stuart Coughlan (Secretary Berry Forum)