Category Archives: Illawarra

WOLLONGONG 2022 Vision Community Summit

This is what community democracy sort of almost looks like

One of the "Ideas" boards

Today I had the privilege of attending the Wollongong Community Summit with 200 other members of the Wollongong community. It was a seemingly diverse group. We were charged with the responsibility of helping formulate the vision to be at the heart of Wollongong City Council’s Community Strategic Plan. Many attendees were cynical, believing this to be another WCC tick the box exercise in faux community consultation. However there are a few promising signs that this may be the dawning of a new day for council. The most significant is that for the first time in my memory, council are submitting serious objections to the TRU concept plan for the Tallawarra Lands. This would never have happened in the old regime.

There are a few warnings. Firstly, although appearing diverse, there were only 2 community members from the Dapto area. See the map below. There were none from Cringila, Warrawong, Port Kembla, Primbee or Windang. The far north was also very lightly represented. Sadly there were very few aboriginal people. People with disabilities seemed well represented. All ages were present in good numbers.

Suburbs represented.

Council did commission a survey of school children from the Warrawong area. Interestingly apart from mentioning their love of beaches and the environment, they were very concerned about prostitution in Wentworth Street. Some cynical people suggested that the data collection process may have been shaped in particular directions. Children’s number one priority for Wollongong was – more “nice people”. Hmmmm.

Also, this is one of several summits. Others have been for “Leaders” and “business”.  While this event seems to be a genuine effort to engage the community, time will tell how much weight is given in practice to these various perspectives. When there is conflict between goals or strategies, how will these be resolved. Will the “ordinary” resident keep their seat at the table or be pushed aside for the interests of “business” and “leaders”?

I shared tables with a number of groups and encountered the usual problems of dominant personalities hijacking the agenda, not respecting others and completely ignoring the task at hand. Maybe Wollongong really does need more nice people. There were also a lot of passionate, respectful articulate people.

Interestingly in terms of content, there was a significant amount of convergence around key issues. The environment rated very highly. There was a strong push for an end to homelessness and unemployment. People wanted Wollongong to genuinely embrace innovation as a real possibility, not just a slogan.

Details will follow shortly, but I thought I’d share my last table’s consensus vision statement for Wollongong. We can’t show you this woman’s face because its irrelevant – read the sign.

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Occupy East Dapto

CRED invites all residents of East Dapto to get informed and get involved in the coming Occupy Sydney meeting at Martin Place on October 15. Concerned citizens will rally at 2:30 and begin the process of shaping the vision for a different Australia. So why bother? Will it make a difference? What has this got to do with our community?

Firstly, this is not just a support or sympathy rally for Occupy Wall Street – even though the events of Wall Street do directly impact our daily lives. Occupy Sydney is one of several rallies nationwide to address Australia’s concerns. Our situation is not as dire as America at present, thanks to the mining boom and modest levels of national debt. Yet we share the same structural unfairness that locks 99% of Australians out of the game. Consider our local issues.

We have already lost ownership of the once publically owned Tallawarra Lands to a subsidiary of China Light and Power. The land was sold well below market price by the corrupt Bob Carr government in 1997. Now I’m sure you would like some bargain basement real estate with lake views? So how come a foreign company gets the chance that we don’t? Could it be that they are the 1% and we are the 99%?

When the development was proposed, a consultant to TRUEnergy conducted a community survey. The scope of the survey was to discover the community’s attitude towards the proposed development and preferred use for the land. Several times I have asked to see the results of this community survey. As an affected resident, I was refused because apparently community opinion is “commercial in confidence?” When did community opinion become a trade secret? How could this happen? Could it be that they are the 1% and we are the 99%?

Consider our pool? Once we had free access. Maintenance and staffing was covered by rates and even the poorest of the poor could take their kids for a free, fun day out. What happened? Already struggling, the cost of heating the pool was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Why don’t rates cover the cost of providing community services? Why does the State Government not adequately fund our community? Could it be that they are the 1% and we are the 99%.

What about the problems of social disadvantage, poor education outcomes, vandalism and crime? Why aren’t Australia’s wealthiest companies and citizens making a big enough contribution to adequately provide the prevention, education and social services to adequately improve the lot of our disadvantaged people? After all – our natural resources belong to all of us. Surely a compassionate and progressive society like Australia that values a fair go would do what it takes to fix this? Isn’t THAT the ANZAC spirit? Yet when the Federal Government proposed a Super Profits Tax, the 1% spent millions on advertising to defend their greed! Our Government dared not to even contemplate a tax on Bank Super Profits. Maybe it’s because they are the 1% and we are the 99%?

In these wildly prosperous times, why do such a large proportion of us have no job at all, not enough hours or a full-time job that still leaves us struggling to pay rent, food, water and electricity? Is it because they are the 1% and we are the 99%?

So if you think this is just about the USA or Sydney – think again. The actions of the wealthiest 1% directly affect your life, your dreams and your prospects. You have already seen their impact on electricity, water, rent and housing costs. If you have a job, you have already seen the demands for endless productivity gains when you are already working at full capacity. So what are you going to do? This is not just about protesting. The “Occupy” movement needs your voice, your heart, your ideas – or simply to know that you want to see a fairer world, country and community. Find out more at http://www.occupytogether.org/ I hope to see you at Martin Place – or on the wonderful 2 hour train ride to the City.

Under Threat

Developers and Councils are planning 17,000 new homes as well as industry and commercial development on the western foreshores and hinterland of Lake Illawarra. Lake Illawarra Authority chairman Doug Prosser says that the threat to our Lake has never been greater. This would have to be the understatement of the decade. Increased stormwater runoff, rubbish and sewerage overflow cannot possibly be healthy for the lake. But it’s not just the lake. What impact will this have on traffic, employment, air pollution, noise, social equity, access to services and quality of life? I’d like to think that developers and council have our best interests at heart, but I’m afraid bitter experience proves otherwise.

These western Illawarra developments are a miniature representation of the “Big Australia” debate. How much of our natural beauty, limited resources and quality of life are we as a community willing to sacrifice? Simple maths tells us that exponential growth cannot continue on a planet or in a community with finite resources. Even astonishing technological advance will only delay the inevitable. Somewhere, sometime a line needs to be drawn. The only question is when we draw that line and what sort of living conditions we want from that time forward. We can make that decision proactively, or we can have it foisted upon us by famine, thirst and civil unrest. Recently we were only six months short of running out of water.

So Rod Oxley was right. Wollongong needs a vision (but not his). We need a vision of a low impact, sustainable future that delivers a reasonable quality of life to all the members of our community. We also need a way for communities to have a voice. This is not just to “have a say” but to actually shape the decisions which affect our lives. Communities have spoken about all these developments. However, as usual, all levels of Government have placed the economic benefit of a few above the wants and needs of the community. It’s not just the Lake, but our children’s future that is under an insidious threat.

Community Strategic Plan

This just in from the terminally ill NSW Government:

A new approach to planning and reporting

A new planning and reporting framework for NSW local government has been introduced. These reforms replace the former Management Plan and Social Plan with an integrated framework. It also includes a new requirement to prepare a long-term Community Strategic Plan and Resourcing Strategy. The essential elements of the new framework are outlined in these Guidelines. Guidance to assist councils to implement the new framework is explained in the supporting Planning and Reporting Manual.

The Community Strategic Plan

The Community Strategic Plan is the highest level plan that a council will prepare. The purpose of the plan is to identify the community’s main priorities and aspirations for the future and to plan strategies for achieving these goals. In doing this, the planning process will consider the issues and pressures that may affect the community and the level of resources that will realistically be available to achieve its aims and aspirations. While a council has a custodial role in initiating, preparing and maintaining the Community Strategic Plan on behalf of the local government area, it is not wholly responsible for its implementation. Other partners, such as State agencies and community groups may also be engaged in delivering the long-term objectives of the plan.

Community Strategic Plan

* Each local government area is to have a Community Strategic Plan that has been developed and endorsed by the council.
* The Community Strategic Plan is to identify the main priorities and aspirations for the future of the local government area.
* The Community Strategic Plan must cover a minimum timeframe of 10 years.
* The Community Strategic Plan must establish strategic objectives together with strategies to achieve those objectives.
* It must address social, environmental, economic and civic leadership issues in an integrated manner.
* Council must ensure the Community Strategic Plan is adequately informed by relevant information relating to social, environmental, economic and civic leadership issues.
* It must be based on the social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights.
* The Community Strategic Plan must give due regard to the State Plan and other relevant state and regional plans.
Community Engagement
* Each council must prepare and implement a Community Engagement Strategy based on social justice principles for engagement with the local community in developing the Community Strategic Plan.

The Resourcing Strategy
The Community Strategic Plan provides a vehicle for expressing long-term community aspirations. However, these will not be achieved without sufficient resources – time, money, assets and people – to actually carry them out.
The Resourcing Strategy consists of three components:
* Long Term Financial Planning
* Workforce Management Planning
* Asset Management Planning.

The Resourcing Strategy is the point where Council assists the community by sorting out who is responsible for what, in terms of the issues identified in the Community Strategic Plan. Some issues will clearly be the responsibility of Council, some will be the responsibility of other levels of government and some will rely on input from community groups or individuals. The Resourcing Strategy focuses in detail on matters that are the responsibility of the council and looks generally at matters that are the responsibility of others.

for more information see:
http://www.dlg.nsw.gov.au/dlg/dlghome/Documents/Information/IPRGuidelinesJanuary2010.pdf

Resident Satisfaction???

I cannot agree more with this post – I thought the same thing when I read the article in the Illawarra Mockery.

To have any confidence in this conclusion we need to know:

  1. just what is the basis of their claim;
  2. exactly what if anything is being measured;
  3. what is the research methodology;
  4. what is the empirical data;
  5. and who is doing the measurement or assessment.

In the absence of such information, we could be being fed another load of self-serving spin.

It’s just like TRU’s claim in the Draft LEP submission that residents are in favour of residential development on Tallawarra as long as the “ridgeline” is preserved.

via Administrators claim resident satisfaction highest in a decade « Reform Wollongong City Council.

I will be asking for an explanation.

Wollongong gets poor green rating – Local News – News – General – Illawarra Mercury

Illawarra Mercury 15 June 2010.

This is no surprise given the State Government’s propensity for giving away land to developers at bargain basement prices and building houses on high quality agricultural land. CRED calls on council to keep Tallawarra Point and Calderwood green.

BY NICOLE HASHAM

15 Jun, 2010 04:00 AM

Wollongong is the worst ranked of all Australian cities when it comes to coping with emerging environmental pressures such as climate change, a national report has revealed.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Index, which measured the eco-credentials of the nation’s 20 largest cities across 15 indicators, found Wollongong was Australia’s least “resilient” city – the most likely to falter under major environmental stress.

The unflattering result was due to a low education rate, comparably poor public health, a scarcity of volunteers and a lack of local food production, the index showed.

Just 35 per cent of people aged over 20 have completed Year 12 or equivalent, and almost 7 per cent of the city’s population suffers Type 2 diabetes.

High levels of household loan repayments also contributed to the result.

In terms of overall sustainability, Darwin was ranked No 1.

Wollongong placed 17th, ahead of Newcastle, Geelong and Perth.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokeswoman Monica Richter said a sense of community would help cities stay resilient in the face of threats such as global warming or a peak oil crisis.

“A city with a strong sense of community, volunteering and more places for local food production is better placed to deal with future challenges, by giving people a sense of strong, cohesive community around them,” she said.

“Wollongong has some way to go – it is doing very well in some areas and poorly in others.”

The city also ranked worst in air quality, measuring 2.5 times more particulate matter per cubic metre of air than the best performing city, the Sunshine Coast.

But Wollongong scored well in water usage, low rates of private car ownership and climate change policies put in place by local government.

Cunningham MP Sharon Bird questioned the pessimistic snapshot.

“I very much dispute the argument that somehow there is a major problem in our region that makes it a negative overall – it’s sad to rank in a way that insinuates the bottom cities are not going well,” Ms Bird said.

Conceding youth unemployment and school retention rates were problematic, the Wollongong community boasted a “very deep sense of the need to look after each other”, she said.

Cunningham Greens candidate George Takacs said while Wollongong may have low rates of private car ownership, public transport did not make up the shortfall. He was also concerned about the Illawarra’s hunger for new housing areas, claiming it was eating up valuable agricultural land.

via Wollongong gets poor green rating – Local News – News – General – Illawarra Mercury.

Beautiful Koonawarra – a set on Flickr

Beautiful Koonawarra – a set on Flickr.

My wife and I have taken some beautiful photos of Koonawarra over the years. Here’s a few of the reasons we love the place.

Surnise over Koonawarra