Providing equitable service delivery across the shire and greater access to senior council officers at the local level will be a Murrindindi Shire priority, CEO, Craig Lloyd, says.
Mr Lloyd said that since taking the reins in January, he had identified some inequities in the levels of services delivery in ranges communities.
These included parks and gardens and road maintenance, as well as the streetscape in Kinglake township requiring attention.
In an interview with Mountain Monthly, Mr Lloyd said there had also been a slower response rate to any complaints received from the ranges area of the shire and council would be moving to address this.
He said he was committed to bringing about better engagement with communities across the shire and creating a system whereby residents and businesses can ‘work with us and tell us what they want’.
“There is the perception of a lack of infra-structure and investment into the Kinglake end of the shire. Streetscapes require attention, along with road maintenance and general council maintenance and activity and that will start to roll out”, he said.
“But, there are also some fantastic facilities, such as some of the best tennis courts in the district at the Tennis Club, which are uner-utilised. The football club also enjoys council maintenance in Kinglake, whereas the club in Alexandra has to pay for all of its own maintenance.
“But, we will be rebalancing funding and services to ensure these are delivered equitably across the shire”, he said.
This will include ensuring a planning officer is available on Thursdays at the Kinglake office for face-to-face contact and advice. Given new State Government fire zone planning overlays, each planning case is different, but can be dealt with more efficiently.
“The responses I have been receiving from ranges communities are diverse and complex, but the bottom line is that we have taken longer to respond in that area. We are working to fix that”.
On the question of community consultation on key issues, Mr Lloyd said that so far he had received mixed views, with some claiming there were too many surveys and the council should ‘just get on with it’ and others calling for greater community input.
A new round of consultation sessions that began across the shire in April had received a good response, he said.
“It’s about the community becoming a good advocate and setting its own priorities”.
“I have not found a consensus view across the ranges so far, but there are a lot of good ideas and competing bids. But, we will be working through these”, he said.
The RAC building in Kinglake and proposals for its use as a community asset is, he said, ‘a work in progress’. A business decision will need to be made later this year regarding future use, but in the meantime, the building has been leased until June next year. “This process requires more planning and this will be done”, he said.
Mr Lloyd said he had confidence in the council’s budgetary and governance practices but that there would be changes in this year’s budget, where ‘significant efficiencies’ had been identified and new services would be put in place.
“There will be a whole new approach in regard to connecting with communities and spending our ratepayers’ money as efficiently and effectively as we can”, Mr Lloyd said.