Bellarine Times – Councillor Jim Mason - 29 March 2021
A path forward
Many decisions we make as a Council are incredibly challenging because we are guaranteed to disappoint a portion of the community no matter what we decide.
That was what we faced during our most recent Council meeting on the question of a new network of footpaths in Ocean Grove.
This particular issue, as Ocean Grove residents will know very well, is two-fold.
- Does the community actually want footpaths?
- If so, who should pay for them, and how much should they pay?
On both questions, opinions are divided.
Ocean Grove’s lack of footpaths is a legacy issue from a time when councils did not require developers of new residential areas to put them in.
However, for many people, the absence of footpaths now contributes to the coastal character of the town.
On the other hand, the lack of a connected pedestrian network in Ocean Grove is not up to modern standards of safety and accessibility – especially when governments all over the world are trying to encourage active, environmentally sustainable modes of transport such as walking and riding.
In a survey of more than 5600 Ocean Grove residents last year, 57 per cent voted in favour of installing a footpath network.
Not an overwhelming vote of support, but a clear majority nonetheless.
At just over 25km, the proposed network of new paths – preferred in the survey over a smaller 11km network – would cost around $6.34 million.
The Council itself is unable to bear this cost entirely on its own, and doing so would be unfair on other residents across Greater Geelong.
And so, after weighing the decision very carefully, the Council voted to pursue a Special Charge Scheme with an ‘equal share’ funding model to build the footpath network.
This is where we pay 50 per cent and the remaining cost is shared across all Ocean Grove ratepayers, rather than being left only with those whose homes will gain a path directly out the front. It means more people pay less.
Again, this was the preferred model in the survey.
This debate has been going on for a long time and in my mind, continued vacillation will result in poorer community wellbeing and safety. We need a way forward.
That said, there is still an opportunity for residents to give further feedback, and we will consider all community submissions before a final decision later this year.
Supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Wadawurrung people nurtured and cared for their country for tens of thousands of years. They suffered hardships, horror and harm following colonisation.
These impacts are still evident, and felt today throughout the nation.
Locally, Wadawurrung people and their culture have managed to survive and now thrive, demonstrating their strength and resilience.
I am pleased to be chair of the City of Greater Geelong’s Kilangitj Aboriginal Advisory Committee, which made a request of the Council write a letter to the Prime Minister and the Australian parliament supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Made on 26 May 2017, the Statement of the Heart was a gesture of goodwill in the spirit of reconciliation and expresses a desire to work together in the spirit of national inclusiveness.
It calls for a First Nations Voice in the Australian constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of ‘agreement making’ between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The statement is a gift from the heart of the First Nations people, and the Council had no hesitation in agreeing to send this letter of support.
The Greater Geelong Council stands with our First Nation people. We’ve heard them, and we’ll continue to work together and walk together towards a treaty, reconciliation and a strong Aboriginal voice.
We have an opportunity to create a bridge between the ancient past and a better future together.
Arts and Culture Strategy – Have Your Say
The Council has released a draft of a new 10-year Arts and Culture Strategy, and we want you to have your say.
The strategy aims to create a more sustainable and thriving arts and culture scene through investment, support for creative communities, and leadership as the industry recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.
You can read the draft strategy in full and tell us what you think at yoursay.geelongaustralia.com.au.
Please take this chance to have input into the future of arts and culture in our region.