How Byron’s community panel wants to spend your money

Byron Council’s Community Solutions Panel (CSP) wrapped up last week, and have presented their final report to councillors on how the recent rate-rise money will be spent on the shire’s infrastructure.

The panel of 28 randomly selected anonymous residents and ratepayers were brought together by the NewDemocracy foundation at the request of councillors to improve trust within the community.

According to the CSP final report provided to The Echo, infrastructure was divided into categories, ranked in percentage according to importance. They were: urban roads (12.9 per cent), footpaths and cycleways (11.2 per cent), rural roads (10.7 per cent), urban stormwater (9.4 per cent), rural drainage (9.4 per cent), bridges and footpaths (9.3 per cent), public toilets (7.7 per cent), playgrounds and parks (6.6 per cent), community buildings (6.2 per cent), bus shelters (5.8 per cent), open spaces and sportsfields (5.7 per cent) and pools (5.1 per cent).


According to this particular model, councillors have committed to implement the panellists’ preferences.

A disclaimer in the report says, ‘It is not the intention of the CSP that this chart be used to divide infrastructure spending as per the exact percentages.

The chart is intended to inform Byron Shire Council’s decision-making priorities with a clear indication of how the community perceives the importance of various infrastructure categories.’

If the rates alone do not fund the priorities, the panel made a list of considerations to pursue.

They include:

  • grants; finance from external sources;
  • seeking partnerships or corporate sponsorship from interested ethical businesses within the values of the ascribed recommendation;
  • pursue voluntary contributions from the tourist-based accommodation industry to reinvest back into community infrastructure – this would include festivals, hotels, hostels, and any other short-term accommodation based on tourism;
  • consider the possibility of introducing paid parking in tourist hotspots; continue to lobby state government where appropriate for extra funds and levies;
  • Council to continue to raise revenue through use of its assets and to continue to examine more ways to raise revenue in this way;
  • address the leasing strategy of assets so that it is financially consistent; merchandise Byron Shire brands, with room to create a mobile phone app;
  • community involvement in lobbying the state government with guidance from BSC;
    short-term holiday letting paying for a licence to rent with severe penalties for non-compliance;
    crowdfunding or sweat power/equity to build new facilities such as playgrounds;
  • invest in a university partnership to provide education for the shire, with a potential long-term lease for a greenfield site; and
  • invest in Cavanbah Centre to upgrade facilities to the level for elite sporting teams.’

The Echo was advised the cost for NewDemocracy’s consulting was $41,000.


7 responses to “How Byron’s community panel wants to spend your money”

  1. Sue says:

    And that was all they came up with?

    • David Michie says:

      That’s what they were asked to do. How should council spend it’s infrastructure budget. i.e. What percentage should be spent on roads, footpaths, stormwater, parks, pools etc.

      • Liz says:

        Fair point, part of what they were meant to do, but what the exercise was really meant to achieve was amelioration of a trust deficit. I can’t see that this simplistic exercise will do much towards that. Do they really think it’s all just about a percentage game? It is insulting to the good citizens of Byron Shire to suggest that this result will address the array of concerns they have with Council processes and communication. We could start with questioning the assumptions of some of our councillors that the fault is with their constituents. They are: haters, naysayers, confrontational, NIMBYs, parochial, partisan, hypocrites etc. I would have liked to have seen some opportunity for Council (staff and councillors) to objectively examine their performance to identify the source of any trust deficits and whether they are justified or unfounded.

        • Liz says:

          I need to clarify that my comments are not about the panel not doing a good job; they were given their terms of reference. I would have bought that an expert consultancy group might have come up with a more targeted and penetrating process. Perhaps it’s part of the downfall of bringing in an outside group and expecting them to be instantly familiar with the history of local issues and the culture and values of a community. Perhaps they were just given their own terms of reference?

  2. Liz says:

    And this is 41 grand’s worth? The trust deficit might have been better addressed dedicating this money to consultants to study why the Council is lacking the trust of its constituents. The exercise seems to have started from the premise that it’s a problem with the public’s perceptions rather than Council’s MOs.

  3. Jimbo says:

    Priorities are a bit out of whack or a long way out of whack: “… urban stormwater (9.4 per cent), rural drainage (9.4 per cent),”.
    Stormwater and drainage has a Health requirement and both together are only put on a percentage of 18.8 percent of the total money. Public Toilets 7.7 percent also has a Health requirement.
    Roads get most of the money and roads are for tourists and mostlly for people out of the Shire. Let THEM pay for them. Where is the bed tax?

  4. Garth says:

    Liz, my understanding is that the Community Solutions Panel was a test to see if this idea of community decision making could be used more broadly across council decisions. If so then the greater influencing and decision making power of the community should help to build trust in council decisions.

    I have not seen the final report of the Panel but the infrastructure funding distribution listed in the article above seems to me to be quite different from recent Council infrastructure funding distributions. As you say, funding distributions are not everything but they are very important in shaping our neighbourhood especially as these will apply for at least 4 years. They appear to suggest a lower priority for roads and increased priority for footpaths, cycle ways, stormwater and drainage.

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