Kempsey Shire Council have acknowledged that a petition has been lodged by a collective of local community action groups, unhappy with council’s performance.
General Manager, Craig Milburn said residents have the right to express their opinion and a petition of this kind, seeking greater levels of community engagement from Council is a strong sign of an active community.
“In this term of Council, the elected representatives have had to make some significant decisions in seeking to implement the Community Strategic Plan to grow the size of the community and boost the local economy.
“Its understandable that in a population of almost 30,000, some sections of the community are not going to agree with those decisions. That’s democracy at work,” said Mr Milburn.
Council has implemented new initiatives actively seeking to increase community engagement and interaction. Digital platforms, such as Your Say Macleay create flexible opportunities for residents to have a say on issues important to them. A program of quarterly Community Catch-ups across the Shires towns and villages has helped Councillors meet with residents to review local issues.
“We have acknowledged the sensitivities for some residents regarding the Airport use and established the Kempsey Airport Reference Group (KARG).
“Significant time and resource over the last 12 months has gone into working with KARG to review the complexities of Airport management in order to bring the community opinions into the discussions and document development.
“It’s disappointing when the Chair of that Reference Group, that has possibly had more access to Council resources than any other single sector of the community in the last 12 months, then uses terms like tokenistic consultation.”
Council’s Corporate Improvement Program for this financial year includes a focus on the Community Engagement policy and toolkit.
“Unfortunately the opportunity to have a say doesn’t always translate into getting the outcome you desire and that’s where we need to keep working with the community to help them understand the levels of engagement, the constraints and legislation that also affect Council’s decisions,” said Mr Milburn.