Council has adopted a Community Engagement Policy as part of the Hepburn Together project. The Policy was drafted after significant input and feedback from the community.
Interim CEO, Bradley Thomas, said that he was really pleased with the amount of feedback received from the community. “We are one of very few councils who consulted the community prior to the drafting of the document, so community insight and feedback drove the drafting of the Policy,” said Mr Thomas. “Over 300 community members had their say on the Policy after ten pop up sessions across the Shire and an online survey.
“Community members were able to tell us what sort of engagement they prefer, through what avenues and how frequently. This Policy will underpin how we approach engagement into the future, and we believe it reflects community and Councillor sentiment,” he said.
Following analysis of the engagement findings, ten recommendations were developed and used to inform the Policy and future engagement practices. Key areas considered included Planning, Communication, Continuous Improvement/Reporting, Transparency and Consistent Engagement.
The detailed recommendations for each section are contained in the Hepburn Together Engagement Summary Report available on Council’s Participate Hepburn website. Council have accepted all recommendations and have undertaken to implement them all.
Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, said the policy is the first step in improving the way Council engages with the community.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from the community that they want more meaningful engagement,” said Cr Hewitt. “This Policy reflects community aspirations for community engagement and will set clear processes for what sort of engagement should be undertaken, depending on a project’s complexity, impact, budget and other factors.”
“Council consulted widely with our community prior to drafting the policy. We are very pleased that over 300 community members took the time to provide feedback on the Policy. This is significant and we’ve embraced the community feedback which drove the development of the Policy.”
The recently revised Local Government Act makes it a requirement for Council to consult with the community on important decisions. The Community Engagement Policy is, in part, a response to that requirement.
In the last Local Government Satisfaction Survey, Hepburn Shire rated poorly compared to similar small rural councils. The Shire’s worst areas of performance were seen to be in how they made community decisions, consultation and engagement with the community and in lobbying on behalf of the community.
Community satisfaction was a significant factor in the recent Council elections that saw only one of seven councillors reelected.
Council is committed to improving community engagement practices and over the coming months will establish a regular email newsletter to keep residents updated on projects and key issues impacting the Shire, and will reinstate the popular ‘Listening Posts’ program in each ward.
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