some ofbrian's positions and plans
The best solutions are found by listening to local people and sharing ideas!
Listening to the local community
You can't beat local knowledge and insight which is why the best solutions usually come when people talk and work together. Even when views differ, respectful debate provides understanding and often is the foundation of great outcomes.
Transparency must drive everything.We must look ahead, admit mistakes, fix the problems and work to achieve what is best for Ranges' communities.
Every Council meeting will open with a half-hour 'open mic' session for community members.
Consultation will always be open and genuine.
The best decisions only come from local knoweldge, seeing the locations and listening to local people
Connected, local councillors
Councillors are the community's advocates. They need to be in touch, accessible and understand the operations of the Council. The days of the CEO 'filtering' everything is no longer appropriate. The challenges that face the Ranges in future years means that the way the Council operates must change. Bureaucratic pondering or party politics have no place.
Council meetings should move around towns and villages.
Every meeting should open with a half-hour 'open mic' session for community members. Councillors should spend some time every month 'hands-on' helping in various departments to better understand the region's needs.
Major developments must have a mandatory site visit by a Councillor prior to voting.
In the harsh post-covid era, every dollar must work harder. There is no doubt that there will be real economic challenges in the coming years, so value for money and sensible spending must be overriding priorities.
My position:Council be must smart managers of money and foster innovative private sector partnerships to take the pressure off rates and fee rises.
Local procurement must be a priority; in the Ranges, we'll buy local where possible.
I will also instigate a 'value review' process for major tenders.
CEO and executive contracts will be tied to independent, regular performance reviews.
The Ranges is one of the state's most significant tourism regions - apart from public sector employment, tourism is our largest creator of jobs. Tourism opportunities must be given better support. Council's role is not to dictate the agenda, but to support the region's tourism operators and various sector associations.
Activate the priorities and stakeholder plans that will bring visitors to the Ranges.
Build better partnerships to create attractions, events and ongoing business
Replace bureaucratic barriers with smart regulations that enable weddings and events to occur without major planning permits or complex, costly applications.
Maximise the promotion of our great outdoors to generate sustainable visitation.
Revive the region's mineral spa facilities project.
Recognise, protect and better manage Hanging Rock to showcase its uniqueness
Create opportunities for tourism investment, including opportunties to share the stories and history of local Traditional Owners
Poor management creates a poor workplace culture. Currently, ratepayers are bearing the costs of claims arising from a less than satisfactory workplace culture. Staff are employed to serve the community and there is a need to help them do this better. Motivated, empowered staff add value. Everything the Council does must be about the community.
Council is a business that is owned by the ratepayers and local residents
CEO and executive contracts will be tied to independent performance measurement, including staff culture.
The inappropriate, top-heavy 'island' management of recent years should be replaced with a dynamic, proactive approach that links the 'brains trust' of staff, elected representatives and community members.
The Macedon Ranges is growing and will continue to be a desirable location to live and work. Council must achieve a balance that protects the amenity of the region and secures high-quality investment that delivers positive economic, employment and social benefits.
In the harsh, covid recovery era, states, cities and Councils will increasingly have to fight to secure these types of high-quality investments - many of which are financed by the likes of institutional superannuation funds. It is well known that financiers and fund managers will avoid Council areas known for risks and delays.
Council must improve planning processes to provide more transparency for communities, better certainty for viable investments and an expedited ‘up-front’ process to respectfully resolve potential issues. The processes must also enable communities to work with applicants to create the best possible design solutions.
Setting the agenda by defining 'what we want and expect' upfront is preferable to endless rounds of expensive debate about 'what we don't like' in an individual application. One way of defining what we want is this example of a Design Guide produced by another council.
In my experience, these sorts of processes create better outcomes and avoids ratepayers and applicants incurring huge costs in VCAT and the courts. The design-led approach also means better quality applications and means that investors are not tied up for months dealing with issues that can (and should) be resolved at the front end.
The Macedon Ranges must be regarded as a location that welcomes high-quality, environmentally sympathetic, investments that benefit the Region. It's also a place where poor quality design or inappropriate developments will be ‘knocked-out’ early, well before ratepayers’ and applicants' time and money are wasted considering them.
Planning processes must also tap into and consider the enormous knowledge and insight of nearby residents, businesses and communities.
'Whole' of council approach
Council must be mindful of the entire region but plans must consider the needs of each local area.
Each part of the Ranges, including small villages, must have an individual plan developed in consultation with local communities and businesses.
The plan needs to look at infrastructure, facilities and community support.
Resilient emergency management
The Ranges' Emergency Management plans are in need of a smart update, especially as covid controls affect the likes of evacuation centre capacities. Community communications and creating intelligent, predictive response plans can't become bureaucratic exercises, or just state government box ticking programs. The plans must consider scaled responses, incident support and recovery needs.
Update the Emergency Management Plans as an urgent priority, drawing upon the detailed knowledge of local CFA and SES Brigades.
Create scaled responses that are applicable to each town and village and supported by fast-response communication plans.
Ensure that ALL of our front-line emergency responders and Brigades are fully equipped.
Recognising our local volunteers
Volunteers are the backbone of the community and their work reduces the cost burden on the Council and residents.
Council to review and assist each volunteer organisation to create a support and resilience plan and where possible, assist them in applying for grants and seek local funding.
Recognise our frontline volunteers (such as CFA & SES members) who turn out at all hours with a 'thank you' rebate on their rates.
Other acknowledgments and support should be developed to foster a strong culture of volunteering.
The Macedon Ranges is an 'enviro wonderland' and our natural assets must be protected, celebrated, shared and sustainably showcased. Protecting the environment is not about restricting access or locking people out. Rather, it requires intelligent, detailed plans that measure and monitor flora, fauna, water and potential risks. It also requires positive education and intelligent management. Where people, businesses (or even semi-government utilities) do the wrong thing, strong penalties and make-good obligations must be imposed.
Treat our local environment like an irreplaceable asset.
Develop articulate plans and regimes that enhance and showcase the beauty of our region. (an example of what I was a part of at the Port of Melbourne here)
Each area, (including around each town and village) needs a 'parochial plan' to guide decisions and help identify opportunities.
Protect the local economy
Without well managed economic development, home values and the equity in land, buildings and businesses are eroded. Jobs dissappear and the ability for the ranges to 'pay its way' falls back onto rate rises and huge fee increases. In recent times, the economic development agenda has been patchy and pragmatic. It has achieved some wins, but there is an opportunity to do more - 'leased' signs are better than empty shops 'for lease'
Create macro/micro economic development plans that are supported with the incentives necessary to bring jobs and opportunities to the Ranges.
The plans need to include each town and village and support soliciting and lobbying of suitable businesses to relocate or expand their operations in the Macedon Ranges.
Support local businesses
Businesses drive our local employment and prosperity, yet they are overburdened with fees, compliance licences that are never inspected and many other 'traditional' restrictions that are no longer relevant. The right businesses shape a region and growing businesses are economic multipliers creating jobs and stimulating local spending.
Ensure that businesses are properly represented in relevant Council decisions, including local procurement.
Provide a review of how Council can practically assist and foster business investment.
Develop partnership programs, hospitality training and programs/events
Activate streets in the business centres of our towns and villages.
State spending on roads and transport leaves regional areas a long way behind Melbourne. In recent times, Council has been less than forthright in pitching for our share of state funds and pressured budgets have meant many local roads are the worse for wear. Changes to state controlled roads often means that local roads carry more traffic (e.g. the state declared Edgecombe Road a B-Double and heavy vehicle route)
Road upgrades, maintenance and new infrastructure needs to be specified in advance as part of each town and village plan.
Council then uses this plan to set a 'lead' agenda for requests to the state well ahead of the state's annual budget allocations.
I also support a full audit of 'black spots' and risks being undertaken with an online compilation map that local people can add in risks and issues.
A local law requiring anyone convicted of hoon offences to clean the 'graffiti-like' rubber marks off the road is also advocated.
I also fully support a low-cost, local defensive driver training initiative for our young people.
Facilities and infrastructure
Sporting and community facilities are often big ticket items, some outside the reach of Council budgets. It's important that Council investments are carefully considered to provide the largest benefit to communities and not just concentrate resources in one area. It's also important that our region's infrastructure is planned with an eye on the future.
Create annual and five year plans based on the future needs as laid out in the town and village structure schemes and assess all infra works with these plans in mind (e.g. why pay for a 450mm drain now when a larger 750mm drain will be needed in the future)
Consideration of smart partnerships to deliver big ticket community items, rather than just debt funding. (For instance, an indoor sports arena could be delivered by a private sector investor in return for an extended lease on an adjoining council site)
Roads, drainage and utilities for a commercial estate on council land can be paid for by an 'anchor business' who in return gains the use of a Council owned site. (Ratepayers get the infrastructure to facilitate the sales of adjoining sites and the benefits of ongoing economic multipliers when other businesses move in)