Of late a new activity has hit our region. I refer to the compulsive need to tell us “they” are making a plan. It is not that I have anything against the need for a good plan. But the way “they” are going about it is a little short of getting a good outcome. I fail to see why many of these plans appear to be made without input from the people.
Take three incidents all within the past two weeks. All were reported in the Coffs Coast Advocate under the following headlines; You can now have your say on the foreshore future, ‘Budget journey of council’ (hard copy of the paper on 27/1) and Coffs Coast must decide on its future.
OK, so the foreshores issue has had input from the public in the past, it’s just that it seems endless and to go on and on. The Mayor of Coffs Harbour, Cr Knight, spoke of the high rise development down at the Jetty. It seems all past plans for high rise are to be scrapped. Yes, a consultant is to be engaged to start again from scratch and would you believe the community is to be asked for input. Have secret plans came unstuck?
And the CHCC General Manager Mr McGrath told us a ‘fairy tale’. Would you believe every council in NSW waited for the MyCoffs plan to be done! Now that cannot be right, it might be the top plan for our district but this is of no concern for other councils. But, do not let that worry you. Council was busy; they were making their plans and in June Council will adopt the budgets attached to all these many plans.
Mr McGrath said Council would pass these. This is a rather simplistic way to look at it. Or was it just that Council was ‘being considerate’? By that I mean not going out of their way to ‘worry’ residents before and after the festive season over a mundane thing like our future? Or might they just have been being arrogant and that input from outside was not ‘on their agenda’ for this one?
No that cannot be it because “the business community needs to consider the future and let us know where it wants to go from here” (Coffs Coast must decide on its future ). So do the business community think they will be able to influence the outcome?
Or did I get it wrong? And what is the word “it”, as in ‘its’ future, supposed to mean in this context? What is wrong with asking the community for their view? Judging from the article “Coffs Coast must decide on its future” mere mortals will fail. We will be unable to understand such concepts. Moreover the biggest issue seems to be how do we (the mysterious we) manage this change?
The talk about the future of the Coffs Coast was given by the chief planner from the NSW Department of Planning and the Environment. The exact topic is not stated but the first item of content was megatrends. If you are unaware of the precise nature of this phenomenon an explanation was given. “A megatrend is a major shift in environment, social and economic conditions that will substantially change the way people live and once in place influence a wide range of activities, processes and perceptions for the future”. And there I was thinking it was just a major change in focus.
Megatrends, a book written in the late 1970s by John Nesbitt, came about as a result of a study into articles in the printed media. Old or stale news dropped out and fresh news took its place. Fifty years later is it still possible to detect a megatrend? The IT industry changed the world and the print media is collapsing or is confined to narrower more special interests. So is it possible to be across all IT sources to monitor the changes that are going on? Let us not forget Mr Trump is an avid user of the newer technologies. He declared some parts of it to be pedalling “fake” news. So is it possible there are also “fake” megatrends?
So what has this to do with the Coffs Coast region? We are certainly not taking the lead. In an earlier paragraph it is stated “we perhaps lag behind out neighbours to the north and south”. There is the proof we are not leading the change. Yet this nevertheless followed the statement; “we are on the cusp of something big”. Well I for one hope they are not standing on the edge of a chasm or a bottomless pit.
So what was the message the chief planner of NSW was trying to get across to us? To achieve the desired outcome planning has to be within the regional growth plan released by the State Government. And apparently delivery is achieved by stakeholders in the Regional City Action Plan. Whatever that plan is. And how is it related to the MyCoffs plan? Is there in fact any link between this myriad of plans and how are they to be operationalised?
In my mind it is all ‘as clear as mud’. Never mind, we are told “the significance of council’s planning strategies must be recognised as they play a key role in complementing the strategic planning framework provided by megatrends and big picture goals”. To this eloquent piece of waffle I say; ‘so what’?
In the past few weeks all I have seen is a push to tell us ‘they’ are ‘making plans’. Or should that be they are making plans for the plan to have a strategy? Or have we got to a level where we are making plans for the plan to plan for the strategy to drive us forward? In old fashioned talk this is known as planning for planning. And of course we will also need a plan to tell us how the planning is going.
No wonder they do not ask the residents for their input, until they pretend they want it that is. Take the latest Jetty Consultation Version 101 for example.
Acting Editor’s Note; COB has been resident on the Coffs Coast for the past dozen years when they moved here to retire. In a previous life COB was a lead financial auditor for both the Federal and NSW State Governments.