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Rochester shares ideas on council's direction

Campaspe Shire Council aimed to canvas the Rochester community's views at a meeting last Monday.

ELAINE COONEY December 17, 2013 4:34am

Rochester residents gave their ideas on Campaspe Shire Council’s direction at a meeting facilitated by an independent chair last Monday.

The aim of the meeting was to gain community feedback on where ratepayers would like to see council in 15 years.

Council wanted to gather views on services, liveability and economic opportunity.

Mayor Ian Maddison said he also wanted ratepayers to see council’s direction.

He said if council continued with its current plan, ratepayers would face a six per cent rate increase annually.

He wanted residents to look at the services it provided.

Attendees were given an eight-page handout, which grouped services into 11 categories, such as aged and disability services, recreation and parks and gardens.

Throughout the meeting, residents said they wanted a more comprehensive list in order to decide the importance of services in detail.

Campaspe News spoke to Rochester Ward councillor Leigh Wilson after the meeting who said a list of services did not exist in one document.

He said they were all listed in the Campaspe Shire’s budget and service plan documents.

The level of service and council’s efficiency was topic of debate on a few occasions.

Community members raised topics of council staff not returning phone calls, co-operating or being intimidating and council staff on the ground not being granted enough decision-making power.

CT Management’s independent facilitator Gina Lyons said she clearly heard the community’s message on council’s efficiency.

She said the organisation was undergoing an information technology overhaul, which may improve the issue.

Campaspe Shire councillor Emma Bradbury responded to residents speaking about council’s efficiency.

She said an external audit of council could cost $300,000, which would amount to a further rate increase of 1.8 per cent.

‘‘We thought do we spend the money or recognise our limitations in IT and engage in a financial stability review?’’ she said.

‘‘It has been discussed how we can do things better and make sure we are spending your money to get best bang for buck.’’

Committee 4 Rochester’s Graeme Robertson said he would like to see more co-operation between council and community groups when moving plans into action.

When the ‘‘Threats on the Horizon’’ topic was raised it included the ageing population on the list, which visibly offended the attendees, many who were over 60.

Resident Alan Darbyshire defended the group by saying he did not believe the ageing population were a threat because many would be retiring baby boomers who would leave the workforce ‘‘cashed up’’.

The idea of user-pay for service to reduce rising rates was suggested and the general feeling was ratepayers did not mind sharing the costs of essential services.

‘‘What goes around comes around,’’ resident David Gilbert said.

‘‘I’m happy to pay for kinder services and I know some (of my rates) goes to Meals on Wheels and maybe someday I’ll need Meals on Wheels.’’

Mr Darbyshire said it was important to identify the areas where user-pay was introduced.

‘‘The poor people could get less and less services and the rich people more and more services,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to look after our fellow people.

‘‘You can’t get to a stage where poor people can’t get rubbish collected; we need to be careful about that.’’

Mr Gilbert said towns such as Rochester ‘‘lack energetic support from government’’ and wanted council to commit to the growth of Rochester.

While Mr Gilbert claimed Rochester was ‘‘going backwards’’, Mr Darbyshire pointed out the millions of dollars that were spent on the Rochester Recreation Reserve pavilion last year and council gave money to Rochester’s town market.

Resident Ross Turner discussed council becoming more engaged with the shire’s major employers, such as Murray Goulburn.

‘‘Whenever large companies put something forward we need to get in there with no roadblocks in the way,’’ he said.

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