In a history-making night, Corangamite Shire’s first citizen-led long-term strategy was adopted at the June Council meeting.
‘Community Vision 2040′ was developed independently of Council by a Citizens’ Jury established through expressions of interest in 2020.
Four of the 33 members of the Citizens’ Jury took the spotlight at the council meeting to discuss the vision’s four themes: Future proofing, People, Liveability and Lifestyle and Prosperity and Innovation.
Kate Leslie said the jury met for 25 hours over five Zoom meetings in March and May.
“We refreshed our critical thinking skills, considered the community submissions, deliberated, decided which topics we wanted to hear more about, heard from five invited experts, deliberated some more than co-wrote the document, testing and retesting until 80% of us were okay with all of it,” she said.
Juror Andrew Lang said the process brought together between 20 and 35 “quite opinionated people who were committed to the community”. He stressed the importance of adapting to futureproof the Shire.
“I’m a farmer from the northern part of the Shire. We’ve seen rainfall go down… We’re seeing the tendency for longer fire seasons, more difficult springtime finishing of crops, higher evaporation rates. It all comes down to what the Shire itself can do with trying to introduce things that are going to help us adapt to these either, as businesses or as communities.”
Annie Dumesny discussed the theme of People, Liveability and Lifestyle. “We, the community of Corangamite Shire, want to have no one left behind,” she said. “We want our elders to be respected. After all, they’re the ones that got us here.”
Ms Dumesny said better health care, access to specialists, better study options to retain young people in the Shire and better public transport were all needed.
“We have been enjoying the events that our Council and community groups have been running for us and we all look forward to seeing more of them. We love the way our towns look and they feel. We hope that in the future, they will continue to remain with the nice country theme.”
Addressing the Prosperity and Innovation theme, juror Nicole Ross said community submissions called for a Shire that is proactive and forward thinking.
“We want the Shire to feel more confident in thinking big and taking more of a “build it and they will come” approach. With limited opportunities for housing development in our smaller towns we need to be innovative and create other reasons for people to visit and explore our towns. The opportunities for this are many and varied, giving us much hope for the future.
Deputy Mayor Jo Beard, who chaired the meeting, commended the jury for their work under challenging circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We thank you for the engagement, the feedback, the contribution. It was on weekends a lot of the time and it wasn’t in a normal open forum like so many times we have that opportunity to spend time with each other face to face. A lot of it was done online. Congratulations to each of you that have stuck it out and come up with the fine document you have.
“There’s a real true consistency around where we’re all thinking. There’s opportunity for us through our (Council’s) annual action plan to have it even more in sync over the next four years.”
After the meeting Mayor Ruth Gstrein thanked the community members who had contributed to the ‘Community Vision 2040’.
“On behalf of Council I would like to thank everyone who was involved, both to the jurors who volunteered their time, and the 260 residents who made submissions,” Cr Gstrein said.
“They have identified jobs, volunteering, education, health and aged care, public transport, housing, education, the environment, Indigenous recognition, and communications as key areas to focus on.
“They are to be commended for taking a proactive role in building our shared future.
“Council is here to provide services for the community and it’s extremely important that our residents help shape the strategy.
“The Community Vision tells Council where our residents want to be in the long term. It will influence the decision-making of this and future councils to work towards achieving our community’s aspirations.”
Under the new Victorian Local Government Act 2020, the Community Vision will be updated every four years, so that its currency will be maintained for the four-year term of each newly elected Council.