News

The dangers of not listening

by
February 20, 2018

The community has spoken ... or so we thought.

Two weeks ago we highlighted Edward River Council’s decision on the Waring Gardens peacock enclosure would be the test of its promise to listen to the community.

Unfortunately the council has failed, and has subsequently been the brunt of harsh criticism since its decision on Thursday to remove the enclosure and its peacocks. This was the wrong decision; it was a bad decision, and unless the council shows a strength we do not think exists, it is one we suspect will be looked back on with regret.

When the council invited community members to have a say and guide its decision, more than 1400 people responded with a clear message they want the enclosure kept. Only 157 supported council’s original preferred option to remove it.

It is therefore quite amazing that the councillors sought community feedback, then ignored it.

The result is a growing number of local residents who feel their opinion does not matter; what’s the poing of having their say? This is a bad start by the fledgling council which has managed, in just a short time, to lose the confidence of many residents.

It seems the majority of councillors can’t even remember how and why they were elected. We’ll remind them: They were elected by residents to represent those residents. Council’s own website states the role of a councillor includes making policy decisions “on behalf of – and for the benefit – of the community”, and that as “democratically elected representatives councillors are also advocates for the community”.

Surely, to fulfil this obligation, it means effectively representing the views of the community in the council chambers.

No single decision is going to make everyone happy, but we believe the community should have confidence that when it clearly states its views on an issue, the councillors will take notice. By refusing to abide by this basic principle, Edward River Council has lost the confidence of many residents to a level that it will find difficult to restore. Perhaps it’s only hope is to rescind last week’s decision on the peacock enclosure, though we doubt the council is strong enough to accept it has made an error.

We believe the community in general held high hopes for its new council and most people believed its ‘we will consult’ rhetoric.

Not any more. Because what is the point of community consultation if the strongest response is simply ignored? If the council now flounders along without community support, there is only one place to look for blame.

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