This article was written by Kim Stanley
What is the Community Planning Program?
Golden Plains Shire started the Community Planning Program in 2000. Before this, it was recognised that many communities had great difficulty in working together to agree on and implement local priorities, whether due to the lack of social networks, suitable communication skills, leadership and political issues or local capacity and support. The program is based on three main principles:
- Community members have both the right and responsibility to be involved in the development of their communities,
- Community members are well placed to identify and action projects to improve their own communities, and
- More can be achieved if Council, community members and other key stakeholders all contribute and work together in partnership.
The development of successful Community Planning processes (including local-level Community Plans) has proven to assist and strengthen the communities in Golden Plains, help them become more environmentally and socially sustainable, foster a sense of community spirit and pride, and increase residents involvement in community life.
In the years since it began with five pioneering towns (which Dereel was one of), the program now supports 22 concurrently active Plans covering 29 localities. As the program has progressed, more communities are seeking to become involved as they observe the wide range of innovative new events and community infrastructure being achieved, tourism and investment opportunities, and ongoing improvements to local capacity and natural environments in participating localities.
What are Community Plans?
A Community Plan is a document that outlines the communities’ priority projects for a three year period. When the old plan is nearing an end, the local volunteer Community Coordinators and independent Facilitators employed by Council develop a new Community Plan for the next three years.
Whilst every community will undertake a slightly different process to develop a community plan, in summary it usually involves;
- The Community Coordinators gather other community members ideas to improve their town by survey, conducting interviews, discussion forums etc.
- The information is analysed and presented at a community meeting where everyone is invited. At the meeting the priority projects identified are voted on, project teams are nominated and new Community Coordinators can step up.
- Then SEED funding is allocated to support key projects and the actual plan is written up, adopted and presented to Councillors and Council staff
This process takes between 4-6 months.
So, what about Dereel?
Dereel was one of the first towns involved, and have now had five Community Plans. The old one is in the process of finishing (only 1 project left – thanks to Julie Lee for the update of the Kuruk-u-ruc trail project in last Spokes edition) and the new Plan will be gradually developed in coming months.
Some of the previous success stories that have come out of the Dereel Community Planning process have included the current redevelopment of the hall and public toilets, the ‘What’s On’ sign on the main road/ Ferrers Road corner, supporting events and activities (such as Captain Cats Theatre, Awareness and Safety Expos, Kids Discos and first Spring Festival) supporting the development of a Mens Shed building, improving mobile and NBN coverage, the building of the Community Centre, the cricket practice net and many more.
Some projects in other communities that resulted from their Community Plans over the years include the Cape Clear Lighthouse and pirate ship playground; the Bundjil Lookout at Maude, the Visitor Centre at Meredith; lots of community signs and improved lighting; Corindhap Avenue of Honour; Cambridge Street boardwalk in Inverleigh; Linton bike path and Primary School playground; Turtle Bend and many events at Teesdale; a whole range of markets, community events, festivals and community celebrations; tourism maps and signage; and continuous improvements to public transport and health across the whole Shire.
Sounds interesting – what is happening now?
With the close of the old Community Plan, the new Plan begins, new Community Coordinators are coming together, and early stages of finding out what the community would like to do are already happening. A range of surveys, questions, meetings and discussions will be happening in coming months around town on many different forums to try and provide as many ways as possible for locals to get involved and have a say.
Have a great idea? Want to join a project group? Want to become a Community Coordinator? There are many ways to get involved depending on you, your skills, interests and availability.
So keep an ear open for updates and opportunities in the Dereel Spokes newsletter and website, on Facebook, in your letterbox, at the Saturday Hub Café, in your local group meetings, on the local noticeboards, chat over the fence with your neighbours, and many other ways to tap into what is happening in your community.