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Push for more notice on significant reports

David Schout

Locals have asked the City of Melbourne to give more than the current five days’ notice for significant policy and strategy papers, arguing the current period leaves insufficient time for proper scrutiny.

If successful, key documents such as the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal, Transport Strategy 2030, Draft Greenline plan and the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review would all be released earlier.

It is argued that this would give community groups and ratepayers more time to consider them before they were presented at a council meeting, typically held on a Tuesday evening.

Currently, the council publicly releases key documents five days prior to a scheduled meeting, usually releasing reports on a Thursday afternoon.

Friends of Queen Victoria Market president Mary-Lou Howie said this wasn’t long enough to digest.

“The reality is the City of Melbourne constituents are given two-and-a-half working days — the weekend cannot be counted as a part of the given time — to scrutinise agendas and attachments, often relating to major planning decisions, before Future Melbourne Committee (FMC),” she said.

“Many in the community have work and private commitments, especially on weekends. Obviously, the current council meeting processes leaves the community insufficient time for proper scrutiny of the council material which can be up to 100 pages. Few in the community have the time available to give a properly considered response in such a tight time frame.”

Key city-shaping policy and strategy documents discussed at council and FMC meetings (which oversee the implementation of council strategies, held twice a month) are often in-depth and lengthy reports.

The council committed to exploring the issue earlier this year, and at the November 23 council meeting Cr Rohan Leppert asked for a public update on any progress.

The council’s director of governance Michael Tonta said that where possible and appropriate, early public release of major documents would occur more frequently from next year.

“We are currently reviewing and will continue to review the list of papers that are proposed to come to both council and Future Melbourne Committee meetings, with the intent of identifying items — particularly those that are of a major strategic nature — that could be released to the public earlier,” Mr Tonta said.

“Whilst early release has occurred this year, most recently with the Macaulay Structure Plan earlier this month, it is proposed to ensure that opportunities for early public release of major strategic documents are identified sooner in the administrative process and programmed, where possible and appropriate, more effectively in 2022.” •

 

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