Council calls on Southbankers to “participate”
The Southbank community is being asked for its thoughts on the current and future states of postcode 3006 as the City of Melbourne seeks insights for the development of a new neighbourhood plan for the area.
“Participate Southbank” was launched last month alongside a host of other consultation processes in neighbouring communities throughout the municipality, with the council seeking input from locals until April 30.
Through its online Participate Melbourne portal, locals can “participate” by taking a survey, sharing knowledge via a “community map”, booking a chat or attending a number of “pop-up” sessions and workshops.
By participating, locals can go into a prize draw for a chance to win a $60 voucher to a local restaurant.
Discussions surrounding a plan for Southbank’s growing neighbourhood is welcome news to the community, with Southbank only having previously been subject to more high-level infrastructure planning, such as the now outdated Southbank Structure Plan from 2010.
Concerns have been raised by residents and community organisations in neighbouring suburbs about how the council is weighting feedback from locals as opposed to other groups invited to participate, including “visitors”, “no connection” or “other”.
However, the council’s newly-appointed neighbourhood liaison for Southbank Ash Lee is, according to representatives from the newly established community group Southbank3006, making many positive inroads.
Listed as a “BONUS” activity on the Participate Southbank portal, Ms Lee is understood to have established a series of four “Southbank Community Builders’ Workshops” for Southbankers to “learn more about community building” over two sessions.
While the purpose of the workshops, two of which were already fully booked by the time Southbank News went to press, in the context of the overall neighbourhood planning isn’t quite clear, the intent seems commendable.
That is, according to the Participate Southbank website, to “build and nurture new connections”, “discuss community issues with others”, “learn about council projects and how to influence them” and, importantly, “learn how to start a community project.”
Southbank3006 set up a meeting between Ash Lee and locals at Boyd Community Hub on March 27, which 26 people attended, “to share information about her role, the consultation and the builder workshops.”
The group’s vice-president Jannine Pattison told Southbank News that Ms Lee also attended its inaugural meet and greet on March 18 where “community members came away feeling inspired and valued.”
“It is great to see Melbourne City Council put in place an initiative whereby the local residents of Southbank can have their say on shaping and reframing the future of Southbank,” she said.
It is very encouraging to have a dedicated neighbourhood liaison who is passionate about connection and community building.
“While there is always room for improvement when it comes to involving residents in neighbourhood planning, I am feeling encouraged that the council is listening to the voices of the people, and Southbank3006 who will continue to facilitate communication between members and council as there is much still to discuss.”
Southbank3006’s communications lead Mary Kay Rauma attended the first workshop and said it was a “very positive experience with time well spent.”
“Pulling this community and its many facets together is no small task and I commend Ash for the huge strides she has made in a short amount of time,” Ms Rauma said.
“The consultation is a huge opportunity for Southbankers to have their voice heard and for us to bring issues and changes before the City of Melbourne – I cannot stress enough how important it is that people take time to do the online survey.”
“The workshops are a great way to get to know others who live here in an intimate setting that is also a really unique opportunity. Ash is giving this her all and I hope the Southbank community steps up to meet her with equal measure.”
Southbank Residents' Association (SRA) president Tony Penna said he was encouraged by how the current council was constantly seeking to improve its engagement with residents.
"In the lead-up to the last council elections SRA made a point that residents are too often overlooked and often just provided lip-service by the council," he said.
"In my one-on-one meetings with the Lord Mayor I frequently made comment on this and stressed that a greater focus needs to be given to residents. I can safely say, this council is off to a good start with trying to address this."
"The Lord Mayor now holds quarterly meetings with the presidents of the residents' associations and the appointment of 'neighbourhood partners' is a step in the right direction."
"Ash Lee, Southbank's appointed neighbourhood partner and her initiative of community workshops is a great start to her role for understanding our community and what our needs are."
"Ash appears to bring a great deal of experience and energy to this space. SRA is looking forward to working with her to achieve mutual outcomes."
Locals can still attend a number of pop-up sessions between April 8 and 14. Consultation closes on April 30, with the new Neighbourhood Plan to go before councillors at a meeting later this year •
For more information: participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/participate-southbank