Name change could lead to role change

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MOVES to change “foreshore” to “coastal” when it comes to naming volunteer groups on the Mornington Peninsula involved with foreshore management are designed to iron out misunderstandings over the groups’ roles and powers.

A review ordered by council in 2014 conducted by consultant Janine Haddow recommends asking foreshore advisory groups what they think of adopting “a less formal foreshore consultative group model”.

Changes suggested in Ms Haddow’s report also take away the requirement for a council officer to attend up to 30 meetings of the various groups each year.

Ms Haddow says the changes would provide the groups with greater flexibility.

“It is recognised that some existing members may regard this change as reducing their ability to influence council decisions, however this needs to be balanced with consideration of the expectations of other groups for equal access and consideration,” a report to council’s Tuesday 22 August meeting states.

The shire’s strategic planner (coastal) Jeska Dee said the first foreshore advisory group had been established in 2002 after the shire was appointed manager of the Portsea foreshore.

Other advisory groups were established at Rye, Safety Beach, Sorrento, Flinders, Rosebud, Mt Martha, Mornington, Mt Eliza and Hastings.

Ms Dee said requiring a council officer to attend three meetings of each group a year “represents a major resource commitment and feedback from officers indicated that it was uncertain whether this was providing particular value to the groups or informing substantive decisions”.

“Some group members indicated that despite being appointed they feel their group’s ‘advice’ does not receive sufficient weight and their recommendations are not necessarily implemented by council,” Ms Dee’s report stated.

“It is understandable that members of the community who are required to make an application and stand for appointment by council would, if appointed, assume that this carries substantially more weight than if they simply make submissions as a private citizen/ratepayer, or as a member of one of the many existing community groups.

“In these terms, there is arguably a mismatch between the process of appointment and the intended role/status of the foreshore advisory groups.”

Interviews between Ms Haddow and advisory group members showed they lacked “clarity” as to their roles and some wanted to be involved in management and “plan implementation”.

“The group members support direct contact with the coastal planners who are best able to discuss relatively detailed technical issues.”

Her talks with councillors showed that some groups felt they were not being taken seriously and wanted “some control over a budget”.

The councillors also said “the groups provide a channel for community development, but they should not be dependent on council”.

A report on the reactions of foreshore advisory groups to the proposed changes will be made to council in December.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 29 August 2017

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