What exactly is advocacy and why has the Hepburn Shire released an Advocacy Statement?

One of the problems the Council faces is that the community has more demands than the Council has the authority or the funds to meet. Council does not control housing, schools and health services, nor a range of economic, environment and social measures the community wants addressed. These are the responsibility of State and Federal Governments.

Faced with community demands outside its control, Council can retreat to a ‘small target’ strategy focusing on planning, roads and rubbish or it can represent, and argue for, the community’s needs and demands to State and Federal Government. Much of the Council’s advocacy statement sets out what it should argue for more generally on behalf of the community.

Hepburn Shire’s advocacy statement is Council’s view of the community’s aspirations and dreams for a prosperous, sustainable and just local life. Inevitably it will have shortcomings. For example, despite the enormous controversy about the Rex Project, there is no mention of a community hub for Daylesford – something that Council will inevitably need State and Federal support.

Whether Hepburn Shire gets what it needs and wants from State and Federal Governments will depend on how good the community is at getting its voice heard. It also depends on Council establishing priorities and strategies quickly in order to take advantage of the state and federal election cycles in the coming months. A federal election is due no later than May 18 and a Victorian state election will be held on November 24. The federal budget on March 29 is likely to include election sweeteners for targeted electorates.

Mayor, Cr Tim Drylie, said that the advocacy document is important to support Council’s lobbying efforts as we enter into election cycles.

“This is a living document and will be updated on a regular basis to ensure it reflects projects identified during strategic work being completed in relation to key outcomes of the Council Plan including the Aquatics Strategy, Hepburn Settlement Strategy and Sustainable Hepburn,” said Cr Drylie. “The document contains key projects with estimated costs that we can take to funding bodies as we lobby for investment in our Shire by both levels of government on behalf of our community.”

The projects included in the Advocacy Statement were originally identified as part of previous community engagement activities, including the development of masterplans, council plans and strategies. Further key advocacy projects will be identified and considered for inclusion resulting from current and future strategies.

The list is long and it is unlikely that Council can advance all areas equally in the short term. Council will need to develop a short list of the most important projects that are achievable within the remaining timeframes and focus their energies to obtain any benefits for the community, particularly if it wants outcomes from the coming State and Federal elections.

In a nutshell, here are the Council key priorities:

Focus area: A resilient, sustainable and protected environment:

  • Sustainable Hepburn
  • Western Victoria Transmission Network Project
  • Net zero emissions.
  • Focus area: A healthy, supported and empowered community:
  • Affordable housing
  • Aquatic facilities
  • Upgrade to Daylesford Hospital
  • Hepburn Shire transport connections.

Focus area: Embracing our past and planning for the future:

  • Hepburn Settlement Strategy phase one
  • Clunes Town Hall and Police Courthouse stage two
  • Recreation Reserve masterplan recommendations
  • Glenlyon Recreation Reserve pavilion.

Focus area: Diverse economy and opportunities:

  • Daylesford to Hanging Rock Rail Trail
  • Spa Country Railway – planning and design for extension of rail service
  • Activation of Hepburn Shire trails
  • Mineral Springs Reserve development
  • Streetscape improvements of major towns
  • Replacement of Wheelers Bridge in Lawrence
  • Institute of Gastronomy in Daylesford
  • Access to secondary education in the west of the Shire.

Focus area: A dynamic and responsive council:

  • Infrastructure maintenance and renewal funding
  • Shared services with other councils.

If you’re interested, the whole document is here. Over the next three years, these are the focus areas that Council is prepared to be held accountable for.