More community communication needed

The Nimbin community is unhappy with the way Lismore City Council approaches communication.

The issue came to a head at the May Council meeting, when spokesperson Diana Roberts addressed Council, highlighting several issues leading to a general perception in the Nimbin community that information was not being effectively disseminated.

Ms Roberts, a former councillor and current Nimbin business person, said some of the disquiet had been brewing for years.

“Not having a Nimbin person on Council does make a difference, but the Chamber of Commerce and Nimbin Community Centre did hold consultative meetings with the community to work out how things could be done better. Coincidently Council was consulting with the broader community on the same issue,” Ms Roberts said.

Early last year Ms Roberts chaired a “world cafe”, a conversational process that links ideas and helps generate insights into issues that matter to those involved. Several councillors went to the world cafe.

Ms Roberts said a number of achievable recommendations came out of the evening, which were all written up in a report and sent to Council with a letter.

“We never got a response and that was in May last year,” she said. “A lot of people did a lot of work, we had quite a big response, and the councillors enjoyed the process and could see it was really valuable. We wrote letters and our response looked at how Council does its own consultation policy. “We’ve never had any formal response, which was raised in November at the rural contact forum when we were told they were looking at it.

“It’s not good enough – that’s why the community is unhappy, it isn’t good communication. It’s not the councillors, Jenny Dowell is very good at communicating, the problem is with staff, I think.”

At the May Council meeting Cr Simon Clough moved a successful motion that Council designate one staff member as a ‘conduit’ for all matters specific to Nimbin and surrounds; Council work with the Nimbin Chamber of Commerce and Nimbin Community Centre Inc. and the Nimbin community to establish a community/Council reference and consultation structure.

Ms Roberts said the staff response in the business paper was very disappointing.

“It was a very much along the lines of ‘this is why we can’t change what we do’ rather than ‘if we don’t like it, let’s suggest what can we put in place instead,” she said. “There’s no excuse for not having responded, I think they’ve really burnt the consultation process they’ve just undertaken.

“If the Council engaged more with the community more effectively, they wouldn’t have copped the hammering they have recently.

“They made the decision and went out said ‘what do you think?’, instead of saying ‘these are the problems we face how do we address them?’

“One of the points the community wanted to make was that Council continue doing what they do well, like the rural contact forums, public access at Council meetings, Councillor columns, Council newsletter. It was suggested that the website could be made more friendly, with more opportunity for feedback.

“One of the key things was that some co-ordination within Council on Nimbin matters, for example with the police communications tower (that was erected in Nimbin and then removed after community complaints), planners knew about it, they were consulted and told nobody – had the community been told in advance, it would have avoided lot of heart-wrenching wrangling.”

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