Campaspe Shire committee member selection compromised by rule

Centre of the debate: Last year’s shire-wide dissatisfaction with the suggestion to close seven of Campaspe Shire’s outdoor pools led to the announcement of a Community Panel. Now there is a ruling that disqualifies some leading citizens from being eligible for selection on the 30-50 member panel. Photo by Elaine Cooney

Rochester’s representation on the soon-to-be announced Campaspe Shire Community Panel may be compromised by a ruling which allows individuals to be involved in only one of three shire-run committees.

Campaspe Shire’s as-yet-unnamed Community Panel is the authority borne out of the debate to Save the Outdoor Pools (STOP) and its membership will play a key role in deciding the future of the aquatic centres.

The decision to disqualify members of the Place Based Plan (PBP) or Township Facility Plan (TFP) committees from being eligible for the Community Panel will mean any recommendations made by the PBP and TFP could be rejected by the over-arching Community Panel.

Below is the exact wording of a shire press release which announced how the process will work:

“Both (PBP and TFP) committees will report the respective plans to the overarching Community Panel for consideration.

The Community Panel will review each town’s Place-Based Plan and Township-Facility Plan. It will examine both documents to ensure they address issues such as social health and wellbeing, economic development and more. The panel will then decide whether to adopt the plans, note the plans or decline to support the plans.

Finally, the Community Panel will review all data and all community opinion — from the initial review, from all plans and from the telephone survey. They will then make a final recommendation to council on the future of outdoor public pools.”

Rochester’s Place Based Plan involved several of the town’s leading identities and was completed well before the announcement by the council, via a promotional video on its website, that members of the PBP and TFP would not be allowed to apply for Community Panel membership.

There is nothing stopping PBP committee members from also being involved in the TFP decision-making process.

External consultants will be used to appoint 30 to 50 members to a Community Panel, but that process appears a long way off as the consultants have not yet been appointed.

There is a concern that the inability for at least partial representation of the PBP and TFP panels on the Community Panel will threaten some of the visions of the group — if the panel disagrees with the suggestions.

There is a push from some quarters by members of the four town committees who were in motion prior to the “one or the other’’ rule being put in place for inclusion on the Community Panel.

The suggested compromise is that at least one member of Place Based panels be allowed to sit on the Community Panel, so they are able to fully explain to other members why and how they came to the recommendations included in the plan.

Kyabram, Rochester, Stanhope and Tongala have either finished, or are in the process of completing, their Place Based Plan. Members of the PBPs in those towns will not be eligible, under the current arrangement, for the Community Panel.

Having joined the PBP committees in good faith the participants in that process will be forced to sit on the sidelines.

Some are now questioning their involvement in the PBP process because of the ability of the Community Panel to have the final say on work completed by the groups.

Campaspe Shire community development manager Sam Campi has been widely celebrated for his work with the groups during the PBP process.

The Campaspe News is hopeful of gaining an insight into the decision of the council in relation to the committee restrictions by speaking with Mr Campi in the coming days.

The decision to restrict committee involvement, according to a promotional video on the Campaspe Shire website, has been made to ensure as wide a net as possible is cast across the community to glean a variety of opinions.

The exact wording used in the video is “we are just trying to get as many community members involved as possible’’.