We have new councillors, but what are they actually going to do? The Baw Baw Citizen asked them that after Wednesday night’s swearing in ceremony.
You can watch a video of all the interviews by clicking here or on the play button above (available in HD and full screen). You can also read the transcript below.
Recorded: 02 November 2016
William PJ Kulich, Baw Baw Citizen reporter
The year 2020 might seem a long time away, but the councillors who Baw Baw elected at last month’s election, and who were sworn in tonight at the council chambers behind me, are the ones who will be taking us there. But what do they plan to do? How do they plan to get us there, and what are their first priorities? That last question is exactly what the Baw Baw Citizen asked them tonight, and that’s coming to you just after this.
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Kulich: What is your first priority on the new council?
Mikaela Power, Central Ward
I’ve got a couple. One is public transport – better public transport to and from Melbourne and also within the municipality. We’ve done some work over the last term but there’s still lots more to be done. The other thing is better serving our whole community, so young people. We’ve got a bulge at either end of our population, so we really need to be looking after both ends of our population. I’ve got two young people sitting behind you at the moment reminding me that I need to be focussing on them. And the third thing is our services are not keeping pace with our numbers of community coming in, so that’s all kinds of things from footpaths to library to maternal and child health, all sorts of things. So I’ve got three.
Jessica O’Donnell, West Ward
My first priority is getting out there into the community and listening to what people have to say, what their priorities are, what people are wanting to get done, and really focussing on that really clear communication between council and community so the community’s being heard and they feel like there’s that trust. Getting that trust back between council and community. My other thing is definitely is getting youth services back on track; I think that youth is definitely something where there’s a little bit of a gap when it comes to what we do at council, so really having that focus back on youth and getting something in place for them.
Kulich: You mentioned trying to engage with the community and so on, what [were] the vibes you were getting during the election as to what the community wants in West ward?
O’Donnell: When it comes to what they want, there was a real clear line of they feel like they need more communication, a little bit more consulting with them. They feel unheard, so it’s definitely my first point of call is to (sic) make sure that the community members are feeling heard. Being open to having people feeling comfortable contacting me, getting in touch, having that conversation, calling me up, and also having that promise of trying to call back and making sure that people are feeling validated in that space?
Joe Gauci, Central Ward
Look, the priorities are, it’s basically to make sure we continue on with the work that we’ve done over the past four years for me. I think we made a lot of good in-roads into processes and whatnot and how we go. This new group has to find their feet on where they stand, and I’ve got to work in with the group that’s here now and try to find out. The Arts Centre for me is a priority, as well as making sure we keep that connectivity going with footpaths, roads, and drains, which is the normal spiel, and I know it sounds like a politician talking there, but it’s a very important aspect when we’ve got our population growing as they are (sic) that we can get around our town nice and easily.
Kulich: This is your second term; you are a politician now, aren’t you?
Gauci: Oh, well, (laughs), well, there are those kind of things and I suppose when you look at it it is true that way, and I’m really pleased to be here. I suppose the pleasing part about it is that’s an endorsement from what we continued on from in the first year. So, to get through, if people didn’t like what I was saying in those periods I wouldn’t be back here now. So it gives you a good feeling to know that the community’s backed you and you’re back again for another four. So yeah, it’s going to be very interesting.
Tricia Jones, West Ward
There’s so many things that I’m interested in, Will, that it’s difficult to nominate one. But I think the most important one would be communications between the councillors, obviously we need to get to know each other, then it’s really important that our communication with the officers is very good. But most importantly, it’s relating everything we do back to our community. Now our community needs to understand that we’re working for them, and we want to be one, well I do and I’m sure the other councillors are on the same page. We want to, well I want to make sure that we have a position of trust and respect, and so communication, engagement [are] really important so hopefully we will be able to achieve a lot more and our community will be on board all the way.
Darren Wallace – East Ward
Well for me, the first priority’s actually to get back to the community and see exactly what they want from me, because I’m their advocate. So it’s not so much about my personal issues, it’s all about getting what the community needs or wants and to try to push their ideals up through council.
Kulich: Now obviously you were meeting people during the campaign, what was your impression of what the community wanted from that time?
Wallace: Being based in Trafalgar, I think that there’s always been a feeling of big brother Warragul and Drouin, and Trafalgar, Yarragon, and the smaller communities being left behind. So I think they’re really pushing for a more even spread, and a few more services spread across the whole of the East ward.
Michael Leaney – East Ward
Well, being from a small, remote town, my first priority on council is to make sure that the small, distant communities of the region are properly represented and that we get a better deal out of what council does for all the residents. So it’s really very much a case of being here for small towns; Thorpdale, Erica, Rawson, Noojee, all those small little villages, Hill End etcetera, and getting better services and facilities for those towns.
Kulich: Now one town I don’t think you included in that list there, which is one very close to you, is Walhalla. I think last time I spoke to you you were wanting Walhalla out of Baw Baw. I’m assuming that you’re hoping to change that situation.
Leaney: Well, I live in Walhalla, and I didn’t mention Walhalla simply because people [would] say, if I mention Walhalla, ‘oh, he’s talking about Walhalla again.’ Look, really it is all just about changing the situation and getting a better deal – making sure that we get better facilities that are actually looked after appropriately. Being from Walhalla, which is a very remote, distant place in the shire, I need to make sure that we get the same services and facilities and get the level of support that we need, that it’s not just about the major centres within the town. But that flows onto the other small communities and that’s one of the major reasons I believe I got elected, that I’ve had a lot of contact with people in small, regional, remote areas, and they all felt the same way: that it was time that there was more emphasis put onto the people who live not in the major centres.
Keith Cook – West Ward
My concern is about planning, where plans have been made through council, and I believe that the plans are really good, but needs (sic) to involve the community in planning. So that’s what I want to try to do – that any new planning that’s done, any new developments, is to make sure that the community is involved at the grassroots part of that planning.
Kulich: How do you feel that can best be achieved?
Cook: I think that the information needs to be able to get out to the people. I’m not exactly sure. I’m an advocate of consultative committees, community consultative committees, and I think that would be a good idea if councillors were able to interact and communicate with champions of the community, or key people in the community, and be able to get those ideas across, of what council is trying to do, and get feedback from the community. Often we have plans that come out, before I was in council plans would come out and they were almost fully developed, and the perception was from the community that they hadn’t been involved in any part of the planning process. So I’d be keen to make sure that the community was involved in all steps. And in some ways that’s happened; they’re looking at the redevelopment of Civic Park, and the council has got the community involved right at the very first levels so they’re able to get a good idea of the needs of the community.
Peter Kostos – East Ward
In my candidate statement I made a comment about consultation, communication, and there’s still room for improvement at that. And a lot of it has to do with the public as well, not just the officers, those people who work for the shire. So it’s been an ongoing issue to try and engage with more of the public, and unfortunately you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. So there’s more work to do there to try and get more and better public consultation on a number of issues we’re going through at the moment.
Kulich: (shortened) It’s interesting hearing that coming from someone who has had [three] previous terms on council. How hard is it to figure this out? This is your fourth chance to fix it.
Kostos: Yeah true, and look, par with any council you’re going to get a different collection of councillors at each election, obviously – some leave, some get replaced, so that’s what it is. You also get, I’ve been under two different CEOs under that period of time as well, and there’s different staff, so there’s obviously those issues as well. But as I said, we’ve had some major policy changes with this particular shire, and we’ve done an exorbitant amount of consultation and communication, but it’s still been hard to get enough people to actually come and have a look and listen. I don’t know whether that’s through apathy or, for whatever reason, it could be an age thing, and we really need to try to engage more with the public, the ratepayers, to have a say on what they think because it makes for a better shire.
Danny Goss of Central Ward did not comment for this video.
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