Earlier this year, Nillumbik Council conducted its ‘Our People, Our Place, Our Future’ community engagement program. To the credit of our community, some 3,000 of us did engage. It asked us what was most important to the future of the Shire. Responses were related to 34 so-called ‘key themes’, a laundry list which included items ranging from ‘Parks and Gardens’ to ‘Local recreation and leisure options’. Our top three concerns for future were:

    • Preservation of the Green Wedge
    • Protection of environment and biodiversity
    • Action on climate change

You can read the ‘Summary Report’ of the ‘Our People, Our Place, Our Future’ program here.

This community engagement is supposed to inform the preparation of an integrated suite of strategic reports, in particular a ‘Community Vision’, which in turn informs the ‘Council Plan’. As previously reported, draft versions of the ‘Vision’ and the ‘Plan’ have been released for comment, with comments due by next Thursday, August 26.

The Draft Community Vision

If the Officers who prepared the Vision had taken their lead from the engagement program the preservation of the environment and the green wedge would have been the focus, but it is not. The document is brief, vague, and strangely without focus. For some reason unconnected with what’s important to us, the essential content is contained in four ‘themes’, each of which is dispatched in a single page:

    • Our People;
    • Our Place;
    • Our Future;
    • Our Council.

So, no headings involving the green wedge, the environment, biodiversity or climate change, then. The introductory paragraph to ‘Our Place’ is as follows:

“Nillumbik’s places and spaces make an important contribution to health, wellbeing, culture, the environment, biodiversity and economic success. We want to strengthen the Shire’s identity through reinforcing existing natural and built form, improving accessibility and connectivity, protecting the environment, and enhancing both the Green edge and tree canopy in urban areas.”

Amazing! The environment and biodiversity are in the middle of a list of other things that our places and spaces are supposed to make a contribution to, the last of which is ‘economic success’, which is not mentioned in the ‘Our People..’ survey at all. Whose vision is that?

Moving on to the ‘Our Future’ page, that will surely feature the green wedge? Here’s the introductory paragraph:

“We acknowledge the pressures on liveability that in the future will likely challenge the way we live. We want to strengthen Nillumbik’s ability to manage and adapt to changing circumstances, to ensure the Shire and our community remain sustainable and resilient.”

Sorry, what green wedge? In the section supposedly about the future of the green wedge shire, the green wedge does not get a mention!

The purpose of the vision statement is to provide a basis for the plan, the document which spells out specific priorities and actions of the council over the next four years. That would require a vision with detail and perspective. Since our Shire was created with the ‘green wedge as its strategic focus’, we might expect Council’s vision for the green wedge to be described in its various aspects. Not only do we not get that, we get a slight document which only just manages to mention the green wedge along with a list of other stuff, including, inexplicably, ‘economic success’.

North Warrandyte resident Betty Russell has shared her submission on the draft vision with us, and we think you’ll find it interesting. You can read it here.

We encourage you to have your say as well.

The Draft Council Plan

As we pointed out in our last newsletter, the draft plan is similarly lacking in reflecting the importance of the environment and the green wedge. It contains nothing of planning significance, instead devolving responsibility for it to the current Green Wedge Management Plan. As most will recall, this was a controversial and unnecessary document prepared under the previous council after a previous major community engagement program, but which also ignored significant community concerns.

We suggest the inclusion of a priority action item in the Council Plan: a rewrite of the GWMP, or alternatively, replace it with an updated version of its predecessor. And perhaps the plan could say something about well known significant issues, like the control of fill dumping, and intentions with respect to Melbourne Water’s current proposal to subdivide a swathe of Christmas Hills into lifestyle blocks.

The Council Plan is supposed to set the priorities of the Council for the next four years. In our opinion the published draft needs to be rewritten.

Friends of Nillumbik have commented on both drafts in a newsletter published on their website,  which includes a practical list of suggested modifications.

The Eltham Community Action Group have commented on these documents in their recent newsletter, and that’s worth a read too.

Local community groups have prepared this Council Plan submission guide, which could be a useful reference list of issues.

Nothing fancy

We encourage you to read both documents – don’t worry, it won’t take long.

And then, submit your comments – by next Thursday, August 28.

Submission and download links:

Draft Community Vision

Draft Council Plan.