Geraldton adopts a unique approach to planning

The City of Geraldton has adopted a unique approach in developing its Strategic Plan ensuring it addresses the social needs of the community. Consultants Paul Rajan and Colin Penter talked to senior Council staff and Councillors as part of research which will form the basis for the plan, which will ultimately guide the future direction for the City’s development.

The consultant team is working on three interlinked initiatives for the City. These are a Strategic Plan, a telephone survey of 400 residents to gauge public opinion of City and Shire services, and a plan for the delivery of additional family and community services, made possible through a $25,000 grant from the Department of Family and Community Services.

Colin Penter said that Local Governments developed Strategic Plans all the time but most were technology, infrastructure or economy based. Social issues were usually an afterthought. He said Geraldton’s was unique in that the Council wanted to get a picture of social and community needs, to plan how best to address those issues in addition to other planning and infrastructure needs.

“It’s one of the few Local Governments to grapple with that issue and ask how we can balance social, economic and environmental issues in an integrated way as we develop,” Colin Penter said. Paul Rajan said it was an interesting time for the City, with three major infrastructure projects currently in the pipeline, namely the Southern Transport Corridor, Foreshore Redevelopment, and CBD Revitalisation and harbour deepening project. But it was vital the public identified the City’s development of a Strategic Plan as a distinct and unique project in its own right, in which they could have input through a public consultation period.

Issues that have arisen from early talks were concerns about the City’s identity as seen by outsiders, the issue of the boundary between the City and neighbouring Shire of Greenough, and the style of government.

Paul Rajan said that the focus of Local Government was changing from operational issues to strategic planning with the potential to guide the nature and personality of the City. “We’re not coming along here to Geraldton to create anything, but rather to represent the story that is told to us,” he said. “We’ve got to understand what the hopes and aspiration, of the people are, and then represent them in a way that allows the people to keep the Council honest, and by that I mean in the way it represents their needs.

“The final document is meant to be a set of aspirations for the City, which deals with how it expresses itself in cultural, economic, social and environmental terms. Fundamental to this is the notion of sustainability, not only in terms of environmental sustainability but social sustainability.”

For further information, contact Paul Rajan on 0428 102 254.