Community Group Questions and Statements
Bass Coast Shire is represented by a vast amount of community groups, advocating for different Shire needs.
Some have submitted question to candidates, and my responses are published below for transparency.
Phillip Island Business Network
• In what way do you intend to assist PIBN in helping the businesses on Phillip Island?
• What is your view on the Phillip Island to Stony Point Car Ferry project, and will you support the completion of the Cowes Jetty investigation?
• There are a lot of empty shops on and around the Island. What actions do you think Council and business can take to minimise this?
• Do you support the delivery of the Phillip Island and San Remo Visitor Economy Strategy and the review of that strategy in 2021?
• What are your thoughts on any further development on PI within or outside current town boundaries?
Due to the interlinked nature of some of the questions I will answer them in slightly different order.
Stony Point Car Ferry.
Over the last two decades I have watched as successive Shire Councils try and co-operate with the State Government in relation to the Car Ferry.Like most others who understand the Tourism implications of a regular Vehicle Ferry operating from a well designed and resourced Terminus I understand the economic imperatives and enthusiastically support a Car Ferry (and a floating passenger jetty to improve access to existing services while we’re at it.We’ve only been waiting my entire life for that small improvement.) I have a few conditions.
Any jetty development and ferry operation must be 100% Carbon Neutral. And no, I don’t mean planting a few rows of Blue Gums in KooWeeRup somewhere but a zero Carbon Construction, any unavoidable offsets to be local habitat, and serviced by an electric Ferry leading to a Pay-To-Park structure with available bicycle rental. I have seen no mention of this yet. This isn’t inventing the wheel; it’s best practise elsewhere in the world.
Conclusion of the Cowes jetty Investigation must of course be completed to determine the least undesirable location and there must be a clear community preference for one location and design over any others in order for me to lend my support.
I have watched too many good, well intentioned Councillors metaphorically burned in effigy for even discussing the ferry and I am aware of one who had his tyres slashed and windscreen smashed. That was my father and I have no intention of repeating his pointless mistakes. If the State wants a Car Ferry, they can propose one, get it approved by the community, fund it, accept the responsibility for it and wear any flak. This is a project of State Significance and I do not intend to sacrifice myself on the alter of Failed-Ferry-Proponents just because Jordan Crugnale lacks the guts to take the running herself.
Town Boundaries. From my perspective and that of my constituents the Town Boundary issue is finalised. They are staying exactly where they are. I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which a Boundary extension is even hypothetically needed or wanted. This of course leaves substantial room for further subdivisions within existing town boundaries. I will endeavour to make these new estates as sustainable as possible within the limits imposed by a Building Scheme we do not control.
It must of course be understood that maintaining current boundaries in such proximity to Melbourne substantially affects the market value of Island property, effectively denying Millennials and Zoomers who were born and raised here the opportunity to purchase a home in their own hometown.
The apparently bottomless pockets of Holiday Homeowners continue to artificially and brutally inflate housing prices, leaving local workers unable to compete with Melburnians whose cars are often worth more than the average Island home and this is a trend which shows every likelihood of continuing indefinitely.
This is particularly evident in our largely substandard residential rental sector where extreme rental prices leave no disposable income for our Working Class to spend in our local economy. The pittance they have left after rent disappears into the gaping maws of the Majors, where low prices are the only feature, rather than be spent in the more expensive but better quality local Small Business Retail. This small contribution to our local economy by a large demographic remains an ongoing problem for investigation.
Gentrification with its associated Rent Spirals is an inevitable result, something to consider in relation to wage stagnation, particularly in the Tourism and Hospitality Sectors. Difficulty in attracting minimum wage workers to Casual job which costs them 450 odd or more in the costs of commuting. A further consideration is the inevitable higher density development in Central Cowes in particular, where apartment living must become a fact of life if we are to offer even vaguely affordable or diverse options for singles, couples and young families in low-wage sectors of our economy – our local Working Poor. This presents its own challenges in relation to Recreation facilities for those who lack them at home and have limited to no ability to pay for recreation. Retail, Commercial and Industrial development is restricted to appropriate zones and I have yet to hear any argument, let alone a compelling one, for their extension.
Limited activities such as Farm Gate Sales, Galleries, Studios and other uses neither farming nor residential should be encouraged, where appropriate, in Farm and Residential Zones where they complement the existing land use without adverse environmental consequences. This will increase the resilience and diversity of our local economy.
Assistance to Local Businesses (Q1, Q3, Q4)
In January many in the business community began to share their concerns about the Pandemic. Despite admittedly significant Government assistance their fears for the future have only increased as it becomes clear that Tourism and Hospitality may never return to the old normal.
“The Shire will be all over this” I thought, wrongly. “They’ll announce their Pandemic Plan and then everyone can see what to do next and how we navigate our way out of this mess.” Well, I was wrong. Most Shire staff had no idea they even had a Pandemic Plan and the relevant officer took two weeks to “Edit the document for privacy reasons” before he was prepared to release a copy to me. Mostly because it is an exceptionally useless document which provides no real useful information and not even a mention of minimizing the economic impact of the COVID19 Restrictions.
So, over several months we developed a Pandemic Recovery Plan which will provide at least some assistance to small businesses to survive the COVID19 restrictions and then benefit immediately once the Tourism Restrictions have settled into their new normal, whatever that is.
There are two main parts to the Plan. The first is that some form of Rate Relief for Retail Businesses must be developed and implemented with alacrity. Every other sector of Government is adopting Emergency Pandemic Budgets but here at Bass Coast it seems to be business as usual, with the addition of some unbudgeted, undersigned but extremely expensive Capital Projects which will take years to deliver even a beaurocratic benefit, let alone assist our cafés and restaurants and the workers they employ whose lives depend on regular shifts to compensate for wages which haven’t increased significantly in my lifetime. I see no logical or moral distinction between providing Rate assistance for farmers because farming is difficult and helping a café owner in the midst of a Pandemic. I have no idea of what the numbers might be because I will need to negotiate that with my colleagues once elected, but I believe it needs to be significant and temporary.
The Shire’s record Capex Program should be immediately suspended, except for essential maintenance, and the money re-allocated to low cost, bang-for-your-buck infrastructure like the shared path network, and more importantly to developing and immediately implementing an Events Strategy. These would target small, very specific groups of between 500 and 2000 for two or three days, spread across the Shire to spread the benefit. A sensible Plan would have events almost every weekend, from small music festivals such as Chamber Music, Classical and other non-traditional genres. We can easily stage arts and culture festivals, sporting events for non-traditional sports and more.
Over the last decade or so many local millennials have graduated in Event Management and many now have years of experience. Now is the opportunity to reach out to those people with a box inside which we require no ideas.
Every other tourism destination will be competing for tourist dollars once the Restrictions are over. Many places have great beaches, rugged environments, and plenty of empty accommodation. Some of them have much better weather too. Only by creating an event brand independent of the GP Circuit and the Nature Park will our economy grow and provide the diversity of employment we need.
One final point. The Pandemic has proven beyond dispute that e-commuting can and does work. The Shire has for years had Policy which seeks to attract such folks to move here but has offered no incentives to actually do so. I believe we can and must use this opportunity to redevelop our Economic Strategies entirely and focus on emerging opportunities and on assisting and diversifying our business community.
The Island Voice gave the option of providing video responses to their questions, and you can find the link to my playlist here:
On the Island Voice From the Phillip Island Progress Association YouTube page.
I will be uploading written responses as soon as possible.
Bass Coast Residents and Ratepayers Association
Why do you believe the community should vote for you?
People should vote for me because I understand the issues that we are facing as a community, and further, I know what I need to do to get the ball rolling to fix it. I have a deep connection to the Island—I’ve never lived anywhere else—and I also have a deep knowledge of Local Government because of my history in that field. I know how to make an impact on our Local Economy, I know how to successfully implement real Climate Policy, and I know how to ensure our Artists and Performers are recognised and celebrated.
People should vote for me because I am passionate about my community. I’m young, and filled with innovative ideas, yet I am also uniquely prepared for this job due to my upbringing as a Councillor’s daughter. People should vote for me because I genuinely want to be a part of the change that will move Phillip Island, and Bass Coast Shire, into the future.
What are your strengths in working with people?
I’m a friendly, trustworthy person. I’m good at going to the heart of a matter to find the source of the actual problem. I am accustomed to working with colleagues much older than I and have no trouble forming happy, productive working relationships with everyone. I’ve been a volunteer in a variety of roles, including at the Vietnam Veterans Museum and the MIF Volunteer Visitor Program. I’m a motivational team player, take defeat readily, am happy to admit a mistake if evidence proves me wrong. I think I would be an intuitive, fair, kind and calming influence.
Most critically, I know the workload involved and can guarantee that I will focus FULL TIME on Council. I’ve cleared my slate for the next four years and I give my word that the tail will not wag the dog on my watch. The devil, they say, is in the detail, and I will devote my time and energy to productive Committee work. This is the only real path to the kind of good Policy which satisfies the needs of an evolving community. Those committees on which I sit will always act in the interests of the people of the Bass Coast Shire. They will be productive, and outcome focussed. Any committees I chair will be as open to the public as it is legally possible to be. As a general principle I oppose all Government Secrecy except when legally required.
If elected, how will you demonstrate that you stand at the front of the community rather than standing beside the bureaucracy?
A Councillor’s role is to advocate for and represent the interests of their community. Their sworn duty is to represent the residents and ratepayers of the entire Shire, not just their patch. Their role as clearly articulated in the Victorian Local Government Act is to develop Policy and approve an Annual Budget and other Statutory Documents. The act clearly and unambiguously emphasises that Councillors may not under any circumstances direct or seek to influence the staff in the execution of their duties. I have yet to hear a compelling argument why staff would act against the best interest of the community in which they themselves live, sabotaging the lives of their families, friends, neighbours and workmates. I have heard endless allegations, but I have yet to see any evidence of a situation other than democracy at work; not everyone agrees, the process is slow and time-consuming and leads to outcomes full of compromise that make very few people happy. If staff recommend decisions that are either not supported by evidence or are not supported by Statutory and Regulatory Frameworks and Council Policy, then I would reject the recommendation. If there are complaints about staff those complaints are legally the sole responsibility of the CEO. If the community is consistently unhappy with what they perceive is the CEO’s failures, they are free to lobby all the Councillors to not renew the CEO’s contract when it comes up. As an Island Councillor I will always have the interests of all Island Residents foremost in mind and in all ways, I will follow the Law and the Councillor Code of Conduct as approved by the Council of which I am a member.
What considerations, inclusions or deletions will you take when forming your new Council Plan?
Those who review my Policy Suite at will understand that I am a Climate Crisis Candidate who recognizes that Covid-19 has changed everything. I seek to prioritize supporting our local economy above all else at this time. I will take those positions into negotiations in relation to the Council Plan and other matters when the time arises. It should go without saying that if I believed the current Council had an adequate Climate Plan I would not be standing. Or that if they had an effective Pandemic Recovery Plan, I would not have sought business views on order to develop one myself. Beyond that I cannot say. Anyone who says they will make this or that inclusion, alteration or deletion is lying. They can try, but they have only one vote.
How will you demonstrate that you remain focused on financial discipline at Council?
It seems to me that there are some in the BCRRA who believe that it is Council’s role to do only what is essential in “core” areas and to do that as cheaply as possible. I do not agree. It is Council’s role to provide services across dozens of areas, over a large geographical population, to a diverse and growing community. Operating within the Rate Cap severely limits Council’s ability to provide the services the community wants. Inadequate services are the inevitable result of a focus on Financial Discipline above all other 140-odd Policy areas.
I have a Policy suite which addresses the rarely mentioned side of the Budget equation through a greater focus on securing new sources of revenue. The most obvious of these are Pay-To-Park, which could provide an annual income of millions and has 95% Local support, Public/Private Partnerships, and sponsorship. These would have beneficial effects on both Capital and Operational budgets and would relieve reliance on Rates. To my mind that is much better financial management than an obsession with wielding a razor and it is the only way to grow the Budget and fulfill the very long wish list the community has.
I must add that I will of course be guided by the expertise of the Audit Committee to ensure that public funds are never wasted.
Is Council's 4 year Strategic Resource Plan together with the 10 year financial plan appropriate to meet the future needs of The Bass Coast Shire Council and its Ratepayers?
The Pandemic continues to cause a deepening economic crisis across the Shire. Our Tourism and Hospitality sectors have been hardest hit. Neither of the Council plans referred to were developed with Pandemic-induced Economic collapse in mind. It is my hope that the incoming Council will consider and implement an Economic Recovery Plan similar to that described at www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com. This will of course necessitate a revision of current financial plans and the adoption of strictly temporary emergency financial plans.
Will you be prepared to challenge the system (council officers and fellow councillors) to keep your constituents well informed?
If the current system was functioning well, I would not be standing. Challenging the system is the hallmark of any “change” candidate and I am no different.
I will keep the community well informed through my own social media, through an e-mail list that people can choose to sign up to, and through a Vlog. Utilizing evolving social media platforms effectively is the key to good communication today and I will establish a benchmark for others to follow in this regard. I will continue to advocate that all committee meetings and Council Briefings be open to the public except where meeting in camera is legally required. Where possible all committee meetings should also be livestreamed.
Will you take action to investigate the 10 year Waste Contract details in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor? Will you review the contract model settings and make findings publicly available?
Within the first 90 days, if elected, I will contact the Regional Waste Management Group and verify that the current Waste Management Contract is reflective of Regional Waste Management Group Policy, and further that cost is reflective of regional expectation. This will give me an external, independent, expert opinion upon which I can make decisions, if necessary. The community will hear of my findings when I have all the necessary information to provide an accurate description of the situation.
Will you support continued live streaming of open Council Meetings and availability of a publicly available video archive?
I have known the importance of Live-Streaming Local Council Meetings for about a decade and have noted the ongoing reluctance of several generations of Shire Councillors to expose themselves to scrutiny in this way. I will advocate for the Live Streaming of all Council Meetings and Committee meetings, effective, search friendly archiving of those streams and would like to review the livestreamed Q&A’s to make them both more regular and accessible. I can also see the opportunity to begin Live-Streaming organisations’ and associations’ General Meetings—for example, the Library Board was discussing such a thing more than a decade ago.
Will you take action to review the Governance Rules Policy in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor including community consultation?
I assume that the Mayor and CEO will develop a timeline for Policy Review and I will support whatever priority the Mayor gives to review of the Governance Rules Policy.
Will you take action to Review the Media Engagement Policy in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor including community consultation?
I assume that the Mayor and CEO will develop a timeline for Policy Review and I will support whatever priority the Mayor gives to review of the Media Engagement Policy.
If elected, what commitment will you make to improve Council engagement with the wider community and build community engagement with your local ward?
As a Councillor, I will commit to advocating as strongly as I can in Council discussions for effective and meaningful engagement with the community. By this I mean opportunities for the community to raise concerns with Council and ask questions of council in ways that ae convenient to them—the community—and I will support any initiatives which improve the community’s understanding of council and involvement with Council. I believe that an empowered and self-activated community engages with its Local Government at all levels and I will strive to make the relevant Policy changes to ensure that the Council responds in ways that satisfy the community’s needs.
How will you ensure that the CEO and officers genuinely and respectfully answer all public questions with a sincere response that address the core of each question?
As I indicated the Local Government Act makes it crystal clear that no Councillor may direct or seek to influence the staff in the performance of their duties. Accordingly, there is nothing I can or will do to direct the staff in relation to responding to Public Questions. If the CEO treats any resident or ratepayer inappropriately, I will be concerned and will take the matter up with the Mayor and then the Council. If action is required it will be a decision of Council and presumably any issue which remained unaddressed would affect the likelihood of the CEO’s contract being renewed, which is the only real power Council has.
Do you believe that keeping any increases to rates, fees and charges within the State Government Rate Cap or below the CPI increase is paramount for Council?
It’s clear that there is a segment of the community which believes that nothing is more important than the size of their Rates Notice. It is not clear that this group understands the financial impact of holiday homes on the Budget. As long as Federal Grants to Local Government are apportioned on the basis of a Census conducted in July, Bass Coast, as indeed are all the Seachange Councils, is deprived of Government Grants for Non-Residents. Add on the non-contribution from tourists and a different financial picture emerges. I have very clear Policy about sources of revenue other than Rates and Grants which are achievable in the intermediate term. This would reduce pressure on Rates which is currently the only mechanism Council has to raise money other than Borrowings.
In the interests of honesty and transparently I will clarify that I do not believe that the goal of Local Government is low Rates. I will never vote to increase Rates beyond the increase mandated by the State Government but beyond that I make no promises. I will generally not be sympathetic to the argument that Low Rates are more important than filling the plethora of needs demanded by the people who actually live here, expected by those with Holiday Homes and needed by tourists.
Would you be in favour of regular virtual community connection sessions in lieu of the previous model used by Council?
One of the upsides of the Pandemic is proof that a great many things can be done online. I expect exciting developments in this space, and I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a unanimous view of the Council. I will certainly be expecting to see things like Facebook Live type events where Residents and Ratepayers could participate in some direct form—with a video format to allow for further discussion—far more regularly and efficiently than is done now. There are a range of ways of taking advantage of technology and I’m not arrogant enough to know which platform or piece of software is going to be most effective. But I can assure everyone that as a Gen Z person, I expect to see a great deal more meaningful technological development to allow the Community to participate in all kinds of things.
Why are you standing as a Councillor?
The reason I am running for Island Ward in the 2020 Bass Coast Shire Election is because I firmly believe that it's high time we tried something new, and I believe that I am the right person to help lead Council in a different, better direction.
I outline my complete Policy Suite on my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com, and I invite you to visit it in order to find out more.
Do you live in the ward you seek to represent, and why should we vote for you?
I live on Phillip Island, but I don’t live in Island Ward. I live in Cape Woolamai, just across the boundary of Western Port Ward. However, I grew up in Cowes.
People should vote for me because I am passionate about my community. I’m young, and filled with new ideas, yet I am also uniquely prepared for this job due to my upbringing as a Councillor’s daughter. People should vote for me because I genuinely want to be a part of the change that will move Phillip Island, and the Shire, into the future.
Council recently commenced Live Streaming meetings (for a trial period). They also recently adopted policies defining Council engagement with social and other media. How do you feel about these?
I support live-streamed Council Meetings, and I support the expansion of livestreaming to other Council-related functions, like committee-meetings.
As for the Media Engagement Policy, I assume all 140-odd Policies will be reviewed based on a timeline decided by the Mayor and CEO based on priority. I intend to follow that timeline.
How would you improve Council engagement with the wider community and build community engagement with your local ward?
I don’t think Council is taking advantage of social media in the most efficient way. They need to use sites like YouTube far more regularly, host more Facebook Live Q&A’s, etc. and with the support of my colleagues, I intend to explore this further.
As for how I would communicate, I’ve always been open and honest, and examples of that can be found at my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com.
Public Transparency and good Governance are at the core of BCRRA's purpose. Council has recently adopted new policies covering Governance Rules and Public Transparency.
Do you feel there is a need to review these policies, and if so when should this be done?
I think question 20&21 are the same question, so I’ll continue as if that’s the case:
I assume all 140-odd Bass Coast Shire Policies will be reviewed based on a timeline decided by the Mayor and CEO based on priority. I intend to follow that timeline.
What role do you feel community consultation has in reviewing these policies?
Community consultation on all Policies is important. I don’t think that the emphasis on any one, specific Policy is needed or particularly helpful to community understanding of Shire operations.
What measures would you put in place to demonstrate honesty and transparency in your decisions and spending of ratepayers' money?
As I’ve already said, I am open and honest in all my communications and that will continue if elected. See my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com for examples of that.
Financial Integrity and Discipline
Do you think ‘The Fair Go’ rate cap is better or worse than limiting rate rises to CPI?
The Fair Go Rate Cap is a rather new thing, and I don’t think there has been enough evidence to draw any conclusions yet.
Bass Coast Shire has budgeted for a significant amount of Capital Works in the coming years. How do you feel about the level of borrowing necessary to deliver these?
According to economists and experts in the field, now has never been a better time to borrow money because the Interest Rate has never been so low for Local Government. However, I don’t think this year is the right time to be focusing on Capital Works, rather we should be focusing on a Small Events Strategy to boost tourism, and I will endeavour to convince my colleagues of the same. More information on my Post Pandemic Economic Recovery Plan can be found at my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com.
What is your opinion of Council’s current financial position? And of the outlook projected in the Long Term Financial Plan?
I don’t think much of Council’s current financial position. I think that with the restrictions surrounding Rates, we have to come up with alternate sources of revenue, and it’s baffling to me that this has not been investigated. As I outline on my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com, we need to implement a Pay To Park system as soon as possible.
What is your opinion of the 10-year waste contract agreed by the last Council late in 2016?
Bass Coast Shire Council is part of the Gippsland Regional Waste Management Group. As a member Shire, it is required to adopt the Policy the Group approves. The Group adopted this contract, Bass Coast is required to follow that decision.
And what do you think of the (uncapped) charge for waste services being separate to the general rate charge?
That makes perfect sense to me, as that is how it works in the vast majority of Shires around Victoria, as the Fair Go Rate Cap explanation video on the LGV website states quite clearly.
What is important for you about township boundaries and character within the shire?
We have to figure out a way to balance population growth with keeping the relaxed atmosphere of Bass Coast. Town boundaries are set on Phillip Island and we have room allocated for growth on the Island within Town Boundaries. We also have to address the Planning Scheme to make the construction of Tiny Home Developments easier. See my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com to find out more about this.
What is your feeling about the condition of council owned roads and footpaths and bike paths?
Council needs to find an alternative way to deliver the shared bike path network, and I have outlined my idea of starting with single tracks, and upgrading to dirt shared pathways, then gravel on my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com, and I explain my reasons for not supporting concrete shared pathways—the cost to the environment is too high and we need to find an alternative.
As for roads, it’s a historical fact that Councils have only ever made residential roads using Special Charge Schemes. In Melbourne suburbs, this dates back to at least the 1950's.
Whilst everybody wants their roads made, not everyone wants to pay, and few find it easy to pay because the costs have grown to be significant per property.
It is unfair, I believe, to expect people who paid for their own road to then pay for somebody else's. I also believe that the controversy, time and costs involved in Council trying to implement a Special Charge Scheme means that it should not proceed in my view without overwhelming support from the community in question.
If people are happy to live on dirt roads without adequate drainage in return for not paying, then they have the right to make that choice as a community, as a group of neighbours.
What are your views on the level of importance of art, culture, and indigenous recognition in the Council framework?
These are incredibly important to the Council Framework. It is a historical fact that we only know about the ancient civilisations because of their art. We only know how they fought, how they dressed, how they spoke, what their civilisation looked like because they left art behind for us to find showing us exactly how they did everything. The ones who did not have all been lost to history, and all we can do is guess at their existence. I would rather Bass Coast not slip into the archives of history, so we need art and culture at the forefront of our community.
As for Indigenous Recognition, given the fact that we stole their land, it seems entirely appropriate to involve Indigenous voices in all Council work, and to seek the views of the Indigenous Community before making any decisions about the land they rightfully own.
Statistically, one in four Bass Coast Residences has a dog. How do you feel about existing restrictions in place? What, if anything would you change?
I am one of the one in four. I have a dog. I have a Service Dog, actually. It’s essential to me that Bass Coast is a dog-friendly place to be. I think that Phillip Island needs a fenced-off dog-park, and I support the off-leash beaches. I think there is a way to balance protecting our birdlife and making sure our furry friends have fun around our Shire, and I outline that completely on my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com.
What would you like to see BCSC do to address Climate Change?
The Pathways to Zero Emissions 2030 plan has been released. I think the Plan is good. I think that it could be greatly improved, however. There are carbon-savings that haven’t been identified, for example no mention is made of alternative to concrete shared pathways, nor is there a mention of e-bikes and e-cargo bikes instead of vehicles (Cars, trucks, utes). The Plan needs reviewing and, and with the support of my colleagues, amending so urgent action can be done.
How do you rank the importance of tourism against local amenity?
My Policy Suite aims to boost tourism local amenity. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, however I think Tourists should contribute more than they do for the services they use so I propose bringing in a Pay to Park scheme for tourists and, importantly, tour buses. Read my website: www.blueskyfuturesresearch.com to find out more.