After three years of secretive hatching and inadequate community consultation the Redlands community found out that the job of making a new City Plan had not been properly completed.
A range of issues were not dealt with, held over to be amendments to the new Plan (which has not yet been approved by the State Government).
And just a few months after approving the City Plan we found that councillors were planning on the run, when housing was approved for an area zoned industrial.
The process of amending a city plan requires the Council to follow much the same process of community consultation as the process of making the original plan.
So will Redland City Council do a better job with the City Plan amendments package?
Who did the better consultation job?
In the officers report seeking approval of the draft City Plan it was claimed that Council had listened to the community during extended consultation processes. They cited numerical data: website hits, meeting attendances , mail outs, and even “columns” in the Redland Bulletin (sic)
The Council said formal public consultation was a “record 11 weeks”.
More than 5,000 submissions were made in response to the Draft Redland City Plan – ten times the per capita response generated by Gold Coast City Council during their plan development.
But was the massive response in Redlands due to the Council’s consultation process?
Well not really. Most community engagement came about through the efforts of CARP (the Community Alliance for Responsible Planning). Their efforts alerted the community to the Draft City Plan’s problems and deficiencies and prompted thousands of submissions.
By any measure, Council’s own consultation efforts yielded a poor response.
But the Council’s report on the City Plan made no mention of CARP’s role or the relative failure of Council’s own community consultation process.
What happened to “Reply Paid”?
CARP mounted a traditional campaign using a simple paper based form submission which people could post on a “Reply Paid” basis.
It was this approach which generated the outpouring of community submissions, this was the “tool of choice” for the vast majority of people making submissions.
It worked because it was simple and suited the large number of people who prefer old fashioned written communication to the council’s on-line approach.
The Council’s approach to use of Reply Paid was bizarre. Redlands2030 was advised by council officers that this facility, used for all previous Redlands planning scheme consultations, would not be made available. The Mayor even offered “if you are aware of any resident who is prevented from lodging their submission by post because of the 70c postage stamp cost I invite them to make contact with me and I will arrange for their submission to be collected and lodged”.
However, the thousands of submissions made by people using the CARP template and submitted Reply Paid were accepted by Council.
When the Council undertakes consultation for amendments to the City Plan, it should ensure that the option of making paper based submissions on a Reply Paid basis is clearly made available to all.
Why rush approval of City Plan?
Why the rush?
What were they trying to hide?
The community was told that councillors had spent hundreds of hours in non-public ‘workshops’ discussing the draft City Plan.
Any discussions, debates and decisions made at these workshops have been kept hidden from the community.
The final package of decisions was set out in more than 200 pages of agenda papers which were publicly available for less than two working days before the Special Meeting.
Some councillors made an effort to explain the proposed new plan to the community before the Special Meeting.
Cr Wendy Boglary arranged a public meeting on the 26th February to discuss the proposed plan. At very short notice about 40 people turned up to hear Bolgary along with Coucillors Golle, Huges, Bishop, and Hewlett. It seems the Councillors themselves had been given little notice of the Special Meeting and insufficient time to review the final version of the plan.
Community members attending the meeting called for the councillors to delay final approval of the plan until a reasonable time period had been allowed for its consideration. But that never happened. A motion for postponement at the meeting on 28 February moved by Cr Bishop was not supported by a majority of councillors.
So next time planning scheme changes are considered by councillors, will they ensure that any final approval is not rushed?
Getting consultation right, from the start
The most serious mistake made by the Council in preparing the proposed new City Plan was its lack of stakeholder consultation at the early phase of developing the new plan.
The only stakeholders who got a look in early on were some of the City’s larger property developers and their consultants through the infamous Development Industry Reference Group (DIRG).
Before any new process of planning scheme amendment is undertaken, the Council should be up front with the community and offer all stakeholders an opportunity to have a say about what changes should be considered.
Redlands2030 – 5 June 2017