Community: We need a Council that actively builds, promotes and connects our community at a grassroots level.
We need a Council that seeks to actively connect and engage our community through events and participation. Our Council already has a wealth of assets – we should be identifying those which could be multiuse (or are underutilised) and actively collaborating with the community to deliver low investment, high value community centric events and activities. We need to identify new ways to use the wealth of resources we already have and innovatively expand on how we can utilise them for the benefit of facilitated community connection, which will effectively build culture, encourage friendships, increase community participation and build town pride.
Furthermore, community connection and relationship building is proven to help ease issues like lack of affordable housing, help expand support networks in crisis scenarios and assist in reducing mental health issues such as loneliness and disconnection.
Community building and facilitated Connection – for business owners, community members and organisations is essential to the strength and prosperity of our community long term.
We need a Council that actively pursues, consults with, encourages and considers community feedback and values.
Wherever possible, Community Consultation should be encouraged and facilitated in a way that it is made as easily accessible as possible. Community Consultation should also be actively sought by the Council where relevant Cultural, Community or Environmental groups are concerned and respect to their opinions and involvement should be held. Developing new ways for Community Consultation to support decision making, rather than being simply a procedural formality is important for true consideration of Community opinion and values.
For the most part, the organisational structure of Local Government in Australia is ironically and inherently non-community-centric, even where it aspires to be so. The top down, expert led approach means decisions are made at the top and passed down to those who they aim to represent within their community. We need to flip the narrative on its’ head and be actively disruptive in our approach – embracing a grassroots, ground up way of thinking where decision-making is led by community consultation and filters up through the organisation.
Often, providing Community members with the ability to ‘Have your say’ is done through online consultation. We miss the point entirely if our primary way of communicating with our Community is to meet their response with silence on the other end of an online form. Community Consultation needs to be Conversational – hearing the stories, passion and nuances of varying opinion so that we, as Councillors and Council staff, can fully embrace, understand and consider them. This is where the magic happens.
We need a Council that focuses on effectively delivering Core Services (Civil infrastructure, water, waste management and sewerage) and that is proactive, and diligent in reducing costs and assets that are not providing an effective return on investment.
We need to be focused, intentional and deliberate on cutting back processes, staff and assets which don’t actively contribute to the ongoing revenue of the Council. While many say a Council should be run like a business, I think it should be considered more of a Social Enterprise – valuing more than simply revenue alone, while also considering it as an integral part of the continuation of the organisation. I believe we need to be fairly aggressive in cutbacks and identifying areas and assets where we can reduce costs that detract from our ability to offer core services such as Civil infrastructure.
It’s important to note that certain assets may report an Operational Loss (for example Quarries) while still delivering a cost benefit to the council – IE. some assets being Council owned (and not privatised) mean that the cost of goods heavily utilised by Council in providing Core Service Delivery is unlikely to exponentially increase, which would effectively cost the Council more long term. It’s a balancing act, for certain assets.
On the same note, utilising grant funding opportunities (while avoiding large matched funding grant opportunities) will provide supplementary funding for things outside of Core Service delivery.
Avoiding funding non-essential new assets that aren’t entirely or majority funded by the State or Federal government is important, while also addressing ways to build a more financially sustainable budget.
Certain issues like Cost Shifting (where progressively the state or federal government hand more asset management over to the Council) needs to be addressed and lobbied against by the Council so that the portfolio of assets and infrastructure we manage doesn’t continue to increase.
While generally new Councillors are asked to consider what their ‘legacy item’ will be when entering Council, I see a legacy built on long term financial sustainability as the most important one that this new Council could provide current and future generations.
Building a legacy of financial sustainability and effectively delivering Core Services is essential right now – there is no point in building new, multi million dollar assets if people are dying on our roads trying to get to them.
We also need to restore community faith within the Council by operating with as much transparency as possible. Council should regularly provide easily accessible and digestible information including how and why projects were or were not funded.
I believe in our community there is a degree of misunderstanding when it comes to the attaining and spending of Council funds from sources like the State or Federal Government. For example, often Arts Grants are criticised within their community for detracting from the Council’s ability to spend on Civil Infrastructure, like repairing or upgrading roads. Often certain grants are delivered only for a certain, specific use and if not accessed, it would be lost entirely.
Greater transparency may help this – for example when sharing about new assets or maintenance, sharing how these projects were funded, if grant funded and what the Council’s contribution was.
Councillors being openly contactable via email, replying to emails, communicating with the community and sharing updates will help the Council seem more accessible and transparent as well.
In general, I’d love to find other opportunities to increase transparency within Lismore City Council.
Arts & Cultural Policy – We need to develop the current Arts & Cultural Policy so that spending on arts and culture is done deliberately and grant opportunities are identified in unity with an intentional and consistent direction – with an intention to reduce spending of Council funds on these areas and instead utilising community participation, grant funding and current assets to deliver experiences and events beyond what we currently deliver.
This would also allow grant funding to be more easily pursued with set uses in mind, allowing Council funds to be mainly directed into the delivery of Core Services wherever possible. As mentioned in ‘Community’, identifying new and innovative uses for current under-utilised assets, in collaboration with the community would be tied into an arts & cultural policy.
This would be a great opportunity for the Council to open up for Community Consultation and take a wide range of views into consideration when deciding on the direction of this policy.
As a Council, it is essential that we identify, protect and promote important cultural sites of significance and Indigenous Culture within our Community. We need a Council that respects and preserves the cultural importance and interests of the Widjabul Wibal people of the Bundjalung nation, and actively moves forwards on Cultural issues, not backwards.
Australia is the only Commonwealth Country that does not have a formal Sovereignty treaty with its’ indigenous people. While this is a federal issue, I would love to see Lismore City Council lead the way and advocate for progress on this topic. I’d love to also see more traditional land management methods encouraged and collaboration with our traditional land owners made in how we can do so – for example, traditional burn-offs may assist with bushfire mitigation and a Council that embraces this knowledge would be an asset for our community.
We are so lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world, with Natural beauty around every corner. We need to be conscious to preserve important environmental areas such as what remains of our Big Scrub rainforests and important Koala habitats. We need to be invested in the protection and preservation of important environmental and ecological sites, and cautious of developments that seek to remove them.
Lismore City Council is currently in a declared ‘Housing Crisis’ where our population is outweighing the amount of rentable properties available on the market. This is largely due to Covid and more people moving to the area as the ability to work from home becomes increasingly normalised. One of the ways our Council will need to do this is through encouraging certain developments, such as those which offer affordable housing options. It’s important that we do this with a lot of environmental, community and cultural consideration.
While also cutting back on assets, it’s important that the Council identifies new opportunities for development within our community by encouraging and facilitating wherever possible ease of process for new businesses and developers intending to operate within Lismore.
There should be a focus on developments which aim to ease the current housing crisis by providing affordable housing options to the community. Sensitivity and consideration for Environmental, Community and Indigenous values should be a part of all Development Applications, especially where the Council is involved as a primary stakeholder.
It’s important to remember that the process for Development Applications are largely determined by State Legislation, and NSW’s DA legislation is among the most complicated in the Country. Wherever possible, Council should seek to simplify or assist new businesses and developers to have their DA’s progress as quickly as possible and internal processes simplified.
It’s no surprise that I’m a passionate advocated for Small Businesses operating in the Lismore LGA. Our Council should seek to consult, communicate with, promote and encourage the growth and diversity of businesses within the LGA both in the CBD, outer suburbs and surrounding villages.
A community-centric approach would mean encouraging community led events and businesses through support and utilising current assets to do so. I’d love to see more consultation and collaboration within this sector.
Resilient is a great word to use when describing Lismore. Currently, our budget needs improvement – and one thing I’d love to see is a reserve account for addressing natural disasters and events like Floods, Bushfires and pandemics.
Community and organisational collaboration is a great way to encourage resilience, but I’d love to see our Council develop Resilience funds which would go to supporting the community and community groups who are actively on the ground, working to help when crisis hits our community.
We are a resilient community but we need to plan for natural disasters and events so that we can support our community further, when they do hit.