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Peter Cormick - 11 February 2014

Peter Cormick made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 11/02/2014.

11 February 2014: Non-agenda Item: Community Engagement – Peter Cormick

I have no doubt that most of you are fed up with the Huntfest 'thing'. I am also fed up with it – but, I am sure, for different reasons.

I have no wish to enter into a debate on the morality of what person might regard as abhorrent and another as "awesome" (to quote Robert Borsak, on killing a Bull Elephant). That would be futile. But I do want to debate the process that has enabled Huntfest I and II to receive council's approval. The process that I have seen has been woeful.  And it started with the blatant disregard for Council's Community Engagement Policy, approved by councillors on 10 September last year. The policy has simply not complied with. Throughout the Huntfest 'considerations' it has not even been referred to. It's as though it doesn't exist. What's going on? Does anyone care?

Some of you have maintained that because the Huntfest event is lawful, councillor's hands are tied – no matter how "distasteful" the event may be regarded (to quote one of you). How, then, would you deal with applications to hold , say, a Satanic Arts and Rites Festival,  drawing on an international audience, or a bikie gang's Tattfest, including a couple of brothel booths, to keep the boys happy? In both cases we could expect large numbers, which would do a world of good for local businesses/ Assuming that all the boxes could be ticked as far as legality goes, would you really feel that you had no choice but approve such applications? Of course you have a choice.

And it is no answer to say that because councillors are here to represent their constituents it would be a nonsense to 'go to the people' every time a decision had to be made. The Huntfest decisions are not just any old decisions. They are, by staff's own admission, controversial. When else should the community be consulted if not on a controversial matter?

It would be nonsense, though, to claim that the community was consulted with. By my assessment, the presentations given at the previous meeting, on 10 December, were suffered rather than genuinely listened to. Minds had been made up. In any event, by no stretch of the imagination can a handful of presentations be regarded as a consultation with the community. Think of the LEP debacle. How many of you felt that the community was being properly consulted with on that? Were you satisfied that presentations protesting against the proposed LEP constituted a proper community consultation? I think not. Let's be consistent.

Council's Community Engagement Policy, which as I say, you approved as recently as September last year is, in my view, an excellent and well-presented policy. To quote from it: it "applies to all facets of Council's operations". The policy requires council to follow the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) core values; which include the public participation:

  • is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process;
  • includes the promise that the public's contribution will influence the decision;
  • seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision;
  • seeks input from participants in designing how they participate;
  • provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way; and
  • communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

No doubt, to some of you, these are nothing more than motherhood statements. As things stand, I agree. By themselves they are nothing more than that. Without action they are just talk. When will council walk the talk and actually apply its own policy?

So, my questions are:

1. Why was the Community Engagement Policy not compiled within the context of the Huntfest  applications?
2. Who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the policy?
3. What are the consequences for non-compliance?
4.When can we expect the policy to be applied to the Huntfest issue?

Council's Reply

Dear Mr Cormick,

Thank you for your email on the 12 February 2014 relating to your presentation to Council on the 11 February 2014, discussing community engagement and the Huntfest event. I have considered your comments and responses to your questions are listed below.

1) "Why was the Community Engagement Policy not complied with in the context of the Huntfest application?"

The Community Engagement policy principles apply to the community engagement activities that are an integral part of the development of Council's plans and strategies. To formulate these plans and strategies Council takes into consideration the day to day business activities.

Council follows the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) core values when developing Council's plans and strategies.

The South Coast Hunters Club's application to amend its license for the Huntfest event does not form part of Council's plans and strategies, as such the Community Engagement policy is not considered to be applicable. The relevant policy and procedures for event applications are the Events Policy and Events Guidelines (attached).

 2) "Who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the policy?"

The General Manager is responsible for compliance of Council polices.

 3) "What are the consequences for non-compliance?"

The Community Engagement Policy is not governed by legislation therefore, there are no legal ramifications.  If Council believes this policy has been breached then Council will review its procedures.

 4) "When can we expect the policy to be applied to the Huntfest issue?"

As discussed above, the Community Engagement policy is not relevant for any event application. The relevant policy and procedures for event applications are the Events Policy and Events Guidelines (attached).

I appreciate that you do not consider that there was adequate community consultation in regard to Council's management of the South Coast Hunters Club's application to amend its current licence for Huntfest.  I hope however, that my response has clarified your concerns.