Residents of Bangalow and the Byron Arts and Industry Estate are invited to apply for positions on the Byron Shire Council’s Place Planning Collective (PPC).
The somewhat oddly-named group of a dozen Byron Shire residents, including three councillors, is described by the council in a media release this week as guiding ‘the implementation of actions in the place’ for Bangalow, Mullumbimby and the Byron Arts and Industry Estate.
A copy of the PPC’s charter is available via the Byron Shire Council’s website, where one of the group’s objectives listed is ‘timely recommendations to inform Council’s strategic decision-making processes for budgets, Operational Plans, Delivery Programs and Community Strategic Plans’.
An unelected advisory board, of sorts, perhaps – and checking information online, the idea for the PPC was introduced in 2019, around the time former Mayor Simon Richardson was spruiking the likes of citizens’ lotteries.
Before Anyone Else: Byron Shire the first to have a PPC
‘It’s not an official council committee, or something that’s being done in other councils,’ Byron Shire Council Place Liaison Officer Andrew FitzGibbon told The Echo on Tuesday.
Mr FitzGibbon said the PPC was responsible for helping make sure projects outlined in town and village masterplans actually happen.
Federal Village also has a masterplan and representatives from there have been added to the PPC since it first met in March last year.
Having village representatives meet in a collective helped to ensure they weren’t ‘just flying the flag for their own place and could see priorities for other towns’, Mr FitzGibbon said.
local democracy: what’s best practice?
It’s unclear if or how groups like the PPC are held accountable to the communities they supposedly represent, although the PPC charter objectives do include liaising and communicating with ‘relevant community groups’.
A glance at the collective’s most recently posted meeting minutes – from November last year – showed group members were themselves still trying to work out their role.
The PPC minutes don’t go to the council but Mr FitzGibbon said having three councillors on the collective, as well as council staff members usually present at meetings, meant recommendations from the PPC were being noted.
‘We’ve only managed two meetings this year,’ Mr FitzGibbon said, ‘the most recent one was last week and minutes for the previous meeting were ratified then and will be posted online soon’.
walking the talk: Bangalow footpath project used advice from PPC
Mr FitzGibbon is quoted in the council’s media release saying the PPC has done some excellent work over the past 12 months including ‘promoting priority actions to make Byron Shire towns and villages great places, and being strong advocates for community participation in these projects’.
One example he shared with The Echo was footpaths planned alongside the Bangalow parklands.
‘The collective gave some good advice around who to talk to on that project,’ the council staff member said, before explaining advice from the PPC was passed on to appropriate council staff ‘either on the spot’ at PPC meetings or later.
‘We’re still learning what works best,’ Mr FitzGibbon said of the PPC project.
Critics have described such methods as effectively outsourcing democracy at worst and ticking community consultation boxes at best.
But Mr FitzGibbon said the PPC wasn’t ‘a place for new ideas’ and was simply an attempt to make sure community work done on masterplans wasn’t wasted.
‘We don’t want these documents just sitting on the shelf,’ he said.
who represents you on the PPC?
The PPC can have up to twelve members as well as the three council reps and the council is currently looking for another two community representatives from Bangalow and from the Byron Arts and Industry Estate.
Current members of the PPC are:
Claire Hopkins and Jenny Bird (representing Bangalow)
David Brown, Madeline Faught, Sascha Mainsbridge, and Natalie Eggenberger (representing Mullumbimby)
Alan Goldstein and Jenna Reed Burns (representing Federal)
Jack Dodds (representing the Byron Arts and Industry Estate)
Byron Shire Councillors Michael Lyon, Basil Cameron and Jan Hackett
‘Applying for a place on the PPC is an opportunity for people who have a passion for not only their community but the Byron Shire in general,’ Mr FitzGibbon says.
Expression of Interest (EOI) applications are available via the Byron Shire Council website and close on May 14.