A 45-person “citizens panel” is a “key pillar” being used by Mornington Peninsula Shire to find a “community vision” of what the peninsula should “look like in 2040”.
The “random” group will be chosen from residents and non-resident ratepayers who register their interest in being on the panel.
Members of the panel will be chosen by an independent, specialist company hired by the shire to make sure they are “a completely representative cross section of the community”, according to Andrew Wood, the shire’s advocacy and innovation coordinator.
Mr Wood told council’s Tuesday 20 April meeting that there were a number of “categories, or stratifications” from which the group would be chosen, including age, gender, socio-demographic, status and location.
The first public stage of determining the Your Community Vision and Council Plan Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) started at Tuesday’s council meeting and was followed two nights later with an online launch by the mayor, Cr Despi O’Connor.
The shire posted invitations to participate (through Zoom) in the launch on its website on the Tuesday, quoting Cr O’Connor as saying the Imagine: Peninsula 2040 project as “the biggest community engagement initiative ever undertaken by council and it is seeking feedback from as many community members as possible”.
“The first phase of the project will feature an online questionnaire, pop up stalls hosted by our community ambassadors throughout the peninsula and online forums asking people to imagine the future and provide feedback about what life should look like on the peninsula in 20 years’ time,” Cr O’Connor said.
“The second phase will feature a randomly selected citizens’ panel, which will distil all this feedback into a community vision to present to council. The community vision will then guide the development of other council documents such as the council plan, health and wellbeing plan and the long-term financial plan.”
Shire CEO John Baker assured councillors last Tuesday that the panel selection process had been designed to make sure it was not composed of “the usual suspects”.
Selection of the panel was designed “to present a sophisticated focus group”.
Mr Baker’s comments followed Cr Susan Bissinger saying she could “throw a net over … the same people” in her Nepean Ward who had “very restricted views [and are] the loudest people in the community”.
Cr Bissinger was attending her first council meeting since being elected in the wake of Hugh Fraser’s surprise resignation (“Fraser bows out after ‘differences’ with CEO” The News 15/3/21).
Cr Bissinger said the community included tourists and holiday home owners “and by just targeting a minute part of a group, residents, it sort of does not seem a very fair way to ascertain things”.
Mr Wood gave reassurances that “the citizens panel is not the whole game” and that the invitation to participate was “targeting all residents and non-residential ratepayers”.