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Plaudits for council over forum proposal

03 Jul 2012

Plaudits for council over forum proposal Image

By Shane Scanlan

The City of Melbourne and Places Victoria have to be given credit for their revised proposal for a Docklands Community Forum.

The new proposal, released on June 13, addresses many of the concerns raised by the local community at the last Docklands Co-ordination Committee meeting on March 20.

It proposes a seriously-representative membership base, with as-of-right membership for the Docklands Chamber of Commerce, Destination Docklands and the Docklands Community Association.

It also seeks membership from young Docklanders, Docklanders with children, commuter workers, waterways operators, corporates and small businesses operators who are not members of existing representative groups.

All up, the forum is seeking up to 12 permanent members and the City of Melbourne has called for expressions of interest from interested parties.  Expressions of interest close at 9am on Monday, July 16.

But, while the representational mix is good, the council and Places Victoria have stopped short of granting Docklanders admission to their Docklands Steering Committee.

Membership of the steering committee was requested so that Docklanders had real influence over decision-making.

Instead, the proposal is for members of each group to report to each other at the start of each other’s meetings.

The question of “real influence” was always going to be tricky.  The authorities were never keen to grant membership of their inner sanctum to outsiders but, without real influence, the forum will have limited purpose and will not succeed.

The bi-monthly community forum is proposed to meet every other month between steering group meetings.  So the idea of each reporting to the other could work well. Ultimately, it will come down to good-will and the genuine desire of City of Melbourne and Places Victoria decision-makers to listen to the community.

The first community forum is not forecast until September and it is expected that it will take two or three meetings for the group to sort itself out.

This is a reasonable expectation as this type of community participation is brand new and there are no existing rule books or conventions.

Still to be defined are issues around how the 12 permanent members interact with the broader community and how community forum meetings will be conducted and how its decisions are made.

It has already been determined that an “impartial facilitator” will chair the meetings and that the City of Melbourne will support the forum by providing secretarial services to it.

The suggestion is that the forum will remain in place until Docklands is completed and is no longer shared between the council and Places Victoria.

One of the roles of the forum is to “model and promote a collaborative working relationship between Places Victoria and the City of Melbourne”.

The importance of this role can’t be overstated. It has taken the council and Places Victoria five years to build a reasonable working relationship.

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