Bendigo Advertiser letters to the editor

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you have something to get off your chest? Send your letter to the editor to addynews@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you have something to get off your chest? Send your letter to the editor to addynews@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

CBD a haze of smoke

Just went shopping around the CBD in Bendigo. It was very nice except for the fact that people are still smoking near food outlets and where children play.

As a parent/grandparent, I am still waiting for the council (who practise good health options) to ban smoking near all food establishments.

I would like to eat outdoors without inhaling secondhand smoke.

Ronald P Vaitkus, Long Gully

Councillors calling shots

I am incredibly disappointed by Michael McKenzie’s letter to the editor (“An offer for the Bendigo council to consider”, Bendigo Advertiser, April 13).

I have made time to meet with Mr McKenzie in my office and the meeting was pleasant and polite.

When we met, I explained to Mr McKenzie that the buck stops with this council and its new approach to governance. But last week’s letter was completely disrespectful.

Yes, the push for an Independent Review of Council elicited good savings and findings that have benefited the community. I was pleased to contribute to this process and believe it had merit.

It was also driven predominately by the councillors who advocated for the review to occur.

However, Mr McKenzie and Ted Coleman (who was referred to in the letter) need to come to grips with the democratic process and respect the work of the councillors and our approach to consultation for the 2017-2021 Community Plan (formally known as the Council Plan).

Mr McKenzie and Mr Coleman’s offer to redevelop the community survey and contribute $2000 to encourage feedback will be refused, while the suggestion council could offer a further incentive by discounting rates or providing one-year rate exemptions is inappropriate.

This council’s approach has engaged more people than the development of any recent Council Plan and has reached both urban and rural residents in ways that has not happened before.

A large part of this can be attributed to social media online advertising, which reached in excess of 50,000 people across the municipality.

This ever increasing online segment demonstrates more people want to engage with council when it’s convenient for them.

A survey was available online and in paper-based form. It was completed by 536 people, more than 95 per cent of which completed it online.

To complement the survey, councillors went out to meet residents and attended community events, markets and public gatherings. More traditional methods of engagement were also available, including telephone and written submissions.

The community is at the heart of this plan. Councillors did not just hear from and speak to the “suit brigade”. For anyone that has been interested, they have been able to actively participate. We cannot force people to do this.

What councillors have also heard repeatedly through this process is that the community want us to get on with making decisions on its behalf.

The first draft of the plan will be available for public comment from April 22 to May 19. It has been written by the councillors.

Since becoming mayor I have responded to council agitators with courtesy and respect to explain how this council is taking a different approach. I cannot say any more clearly that councillors are the ones calling the shots.

I value feedback, both positive and negative, in a professional and appropriate way.

Mr McKenzie and others need to understand councillors have been elected to do a job and we’re getting on with it. If they want to effect change, perhaps they can consider running for council in 2020. That is the only way to make a true difference. Not by being a keyboard warrior.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke, City of Greater Bendigo

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