Residents push for greater transparency
SUNSHINE Coast community and ratepayer groups have revitalised their peak body as they press the council to improve consultation and to respect the direction of its 2014 Planning Scheme.
A series of four meetings in recent months, which attracted around 50 community groups, have culminated with the election of Peregian Springs Residents Association co-founder Greg Smith as president of OSCAR.
Mr Smith said what was clear from those meetings was growing concern about the level of communication by the council and the failure to consult inside time frames that allowed the community to respond with feedback.
He said OSCAR would encourage the council to genuinely engage with the community rather than consult in a superficial way.
The organisation has 35 member associations based between Peregian and the Sunshine Coast's southern boundaries and Mr Smith said it would look to build membership as one of its goals.
He said his personal view was the council did many things well but, sadly, some not so well.
Mr Smith pointed to the growing number of meeting agenda items now appearing in confidential session.
"The community wants more transparency, not less,” he said.
Mr Smith said there was also concern about council's so-called targeted consultation in which it chooses who it speaks with about particular issues.
He said issues in Maroochydore, for example, were relevant elsewhere across the region.
"It's not silos,” he said. "It doesn't work like that.
"Everything come back to protection of the planning scheme.
"Development must occur broadly to the planning scheme. The community is part of the planning process, not just the developers.
"I accept it is a living document, but changes must be driven by the community, not individual developers.
"The Planning Scheme must provide a degree of certainty to both the community and developers.”
Mr Smith said while it may be easy for some to claim OSCAR was representative of only a few individuals, that was not the case.
He said the peak body would meet monthly and its constitution allowed member associations two delegates, each able to vote on the position the OSCAR took.
OSCAR would focus on governance issues, with individual groups running campaigns relating to their areas.
Mr Smith said while there was a lot the council got right, its massive workload led to decisions being made based on the pressure it was under.
'We want to say to the council, work with us,” he said.
"I have heard some dreadful things said about councillors. But I go to meetings and they are not like that.
"But they can become victims of their bureaucrats and have become overly pro-development at all cost.”
The former school teacher, who went on to work as an IT consultant in training and software development, is now retired and looking to engage in his community now he has time.
He said while he lacked the depth of knowledge about the intricacies of planning documents there were several in the community who had those skills.
Mr Smith said his skills lay in his ability to organise, demonstrated by how he had been able to help quickly bring the Peregian Springs Residents Association together as a community voice.
The association has been active in opposing a proposed Planning Scheme to change land zone recreational to urban development.