The interface councils have banded together to make representations to the State Government in the lead-up to the November state election with a strong community consultation and lobbying package. The debate in Bass Coast has been captured by a small sectional lobby group seeking a bigger share of an already inadequate pie.
The Phillip Island Stand Alone group, who now call themselves the “Phillip Island Progress Association”, argue that the island is getting a poor deal from the shire. While citizens in other parts of the shire would also have concerns about the state of the roads and other issues, the noise from Phillip Island has dominated the council attention and led to an agreement to push for a municipal review if the State Government will fund it.
As part of the “interface councils”, the City of Casey and Shire of Cardinia have also identified a significant funding shortfall and commenced a campaign to convince the future State Government that more funding is required on a sustainable basis. These areas include councils with growth rates of more than 7 per cent a year, some of the fastest growing areas in Australia.
Their analysis shows that some 78 per cent of capital funds from the state budget were allocated to the inner Melbourne council areas. The interface councils’ approach has been to contract budget analysis and to engage with their communities to identify the issues at community level. They have produced a web page to inform the debate and are seeking community buy-in.
Their approach is a positive one that will enable them to inform government of what is required and that the community is right behind their bid. It has political overtones without being overtly political and they are presenting their case to both sides of politics.
The interface councils have identified that to bridge the service gap in hospitals, schools and transport in their areas by only 50 per cent they will require some $9 billion from government over 10 years.
A comparison of this approach with the local outrage being generated on Phillip Island is marked. While the interface councils would probably love the level of community pressure being generated by the Phillip Island Stand Alone group, I expect they would not welcome the negativity used to drive that engagement.
There is no doubt that Bass Coast suffers a significant shortfall in funding and that a concerted campaign similar to the interface councils campaign is necessary to address it. Years of inadequate development, whereby proper servicing of estates has not occurred, has left an infrastructure shortfall in excess of $200 million.
Bass Coast Council has stated that grants “are not keeping pace with the level of growth we experience as a sea change council and we need to plan for external impacts such as climate change”.
Council CEO Paul Buckley recently stated: “In relation to government funding, general purpose grants to local government from the federal government are driven primarily by permanent population and therefore, given that approximately 50 per cent of residential properties in Bass Coast Shire are owned by non-residents, we are disadvantaged, ie. general purpose grants do not reflect the need to service the properties owned by non-residents.”
The council agenda paper dealing with the Phillip Island Progress Association request for a municipal review pointed out that the net expenditure on capital works from rate revenue equates to $9.3 million for Phillip Island and $9.2 million for the mainland. The difference in gross capital works is explained by the mainland attracting significantly more grants mainly for major rural roadwork. It points out that Phillip Island is not eligible for these grants as the main roads on Phillip Island are primarily managed by VicRoads.
Unequal spending between Phillip Island and Wonthaggi has been the strong tenet of the Stand Alone argument but as well they have sought to harness people’s discontent across a range of issues: the hospital, the tip, the swimming pool and – the last straw, it seems – the C82 inundation overlay mapping. Essentially, the message is that we are badly done by and Wonthaggi gets all the funding.
The aggressive campaign has put Phillip Island on the map for something other than the penguins or the Grand Prix, but not in a positive way.
The pity of this push for a stand-alone council is that it is distracting us all from the opportunity to properly address the funding shortfall. We need a positive approach to identify a vision for the future of Bass Coast and Phillip Island and undertake a campaign to lobby the state and federal governments for the funds.
Timing is crucial; in this election period, instead of this internal battle, we should really be looking outside and taking the argument up to the State Government.
July 12, 2014
An excellent article. Well considered, relevant and well written. Keep up the good work Bass Coast Post
James Archibald, Wonthaggi