Precincts for People Power
Precincts empower communities. They are properly funded groups who have a direct say in their local community. Precinct members are volunteers, drawn from the community. They are resourced by the Council, and meet with Council Officers who take their concerns direct to Council. Precincts should be part of the Council’s consultation and participation process.
Precinct groups would be based on a geographic community of interest. For example, Lenah Valley and New Town could constitute one precinct, while North Hobart and West Hobart could constitute another. Mount Stuart could be part of either, depending on the preference of its residents.
Advantages of Precincts
In Hobart, there is no structured way of gaining local geographical input on a specific issue. Community Associations attempt to keep abreast of issues, but they lack the resources to do the job properly. In recent years, membership of Community Associations has declined. The profile of membership has aged.
- Precincts provide an access point for community participation, making it possible for people to get involved, if they wish to do so.
- Precincts bring people together to work on local projects, at a level that suits them.
- Precincts allow people to raise matters that are important to them, but may not be on the Council’s agenda at that time.
- Precincts are a mechanism for the community to bring concerns to the attention of the city, e.g. traffic issues, streetscapes, parking, planning development applications, park maintenance and a myriad of other issues.
- Precincts encourage residents to provide input into broader city planning processe.
- Through the precinct system, residents can gain information and a broad knowledge of local government and its operation. This should lead to better informed candidates standing for Council election.
People no longer have the time to act as Secretary of an Association. They are already busy with work and family activities. Fewer people get involved and the load falls onto an ever-diminishing group.
Precincts overcome these problems by being resourced by Council. Administrative jobs are undertaken by the Council, allowing residents to focus on the issues without having to devote their lives to letter-writing, and Minute-taking. Precincts are a direct link between Council and the community. Properly resourced by Council, they can be an effective voice for local communities, and could become a very useful tool to address longstanding problems:
E.g. developers could approach a Precinct group to gauge how a particular development proposal might be received by the community. That dialogue could affect the style of development, most likely to the benefit of all concerned. At the very least, it will bring the debate on the development forward, so that it can be discussed publicly and rationally, thus avoiding the adversarial nature of the existing system. Currently, residents are forced to lodge objections after the application has been lodged, leading to acrimony.