By Shane Scanlan
Lord Mayor Sally Capp’s heavily-spruiked residents’ panel is suffering a long and protracted labour and, if born, may resemble an entirely different child.
First revealed at the Soutbank Residents’ Associaton’s (SRA) annual general meeting (AGM) last July and talked up to Residents 3000 last September, the panel concept hasn’t really progressed.
The idea itself, however, appears to have become more narrowly focussed, with a singular interest in planning and development.
Cr Capp told the SRA on July 18 the panel would provide a vehicle for community representatives across the city to formally present and manage local issues with councillors and council management.
“If implemented, [such] a panel could help us understand what residents care about how we as a council can work to make Southbank a better place for people to live, work and visit,” the Lord Mayor told Southbank Local News.
“Over the coming weeks I’ll be continuing to talk with City of Melbourne officers about the details, including who will be on the panel and its focus, and I’ll keep residents informed of the details as they emerge.”
On September 6 she told Residents 3000’s AGM the idea had support within the City of Melbourne and was progressing.
She said the idea was first raised at a “meet the candidates” forum in the lead-up to the May 2018 lord mayoral by-election.
“It would be a way in which we could have residents more involved in planning decisions, but really, more pre-application discussions with the council and, hopefully, also with developers if we can get them involved,” Cr Capp said.
“So, since I’ve been in [council], we’ve started those discussions. I’ve had a more detailed submission on how it could work. And there have been a number of discussions with other councils and a lot of discussions internally.”
“We are currently working through what a residents’ panel might look like, what its terms of reference might be, and the sorts of issues which that group would consider.”
“And I hope to come back to you before the end of the year with some draft ideas on how a residents’ panel might work.”
Asked by CBD News at the March 19 Future Melbourne Committee meeting for a progress report, Cr Capp threw to planning chair Nicholas Reece who said he’d held discussions with council officers that very day.
“You’ll be pleased to know that I was in a meeting with some of the best officers of the City of Melbourne here today to work on this very idea. So, all I can say is keep the faith and watch this space,” he said.
The Lord Mayor elaborated: “The concept is something that is being explored and there are a number of elements to it.”
“There’s a process underway in terms of understanding how we can streamline planning applications and, as we go into that, we’re also looking at what communications we can do with residents on the other side as well, just to make sure that everyone is feeling very informed and involved in the process.”
Cr Reece said: “Citizens’ panels are another way of engaging residents in the review of planning applications and development ideas for a city.”
“It’s something that the Lord Mayor asked me to investigate. It just so happened that I was talking with officers of the City of Melbourne about the idea today.”