Deputy Mayor takes to social media to improve engagement
THE Deputy Mayor has created a Facebook group to improve what she believes is inadequate community engagement by Coffs Harbour City Council.
The catalyst was last week's decision to progress with the controversial Cultural and Civic Space. She is one of four councillors strongly opposed to progressing with the $76.5 million project in its current form.
She has been criticised for using the platform as it's not an official channel like the 'Have Your Say' submissions page on council's website.
"It hasn't been official criticism but just advice in passing and through general discussions," Cr Swan said.
As the debate surrounding the CBD project heated up she increasingly turned to social media to gauge public understanding and attitudes towards it.
Last month she used Facebook to organise and promote a forum at Coffs Central shopping centre for councillors and the general public to discuss the issue and on Friday established the Facebook group called Coffs Community Conversations; posting a video outlining her reasoning.
"While we ask people to take part in discussions or give feedback we're not doing the best job in actually reaching our community, and given what's just happened, that's become really really obvious, and I would like to take personal responsibility for doing that better," Cr Swan said.
She has stressed the page is not an official channel to make submissions to council and has urged those taking part to be respectful and polite at all times. The group already has over 200 members.
In addition to the Facebook group she will be raising an official motion that council consider establishing a community engagement team or unit.
"For an organisation of our size that's definitely something we could look at," Cr Swan said.
"Council currently doesn't have the capacity to manage a real social media presence but I think we should look at building that capacity."
Council has responded to her claims about poor levels of engagement saying they have a community engagement policy which sets out a framework for how they consult with the community.
"Any efforts by Councillors to engage with the community are always welcome, while acknowledging that the official spokesperson for council is the Mayor," a spokesperson said.
The policy takes into account language, literacy, cultural and accessibility requirements and encourages the use of a wide variety of consultation methods.
"Over the years council has won a number of awards for community consultation undertaken on major projects including the Woolgoolga Town Centre Masterplan, Jetty4Shores Masterplan and most recently our use of the PLACESCORE survey tool to capture what people really value about the neighbourhood they live in.
"Council has also been awarded the LGNSW Planning Award for Culture Change Innovation and Excellence for genuine community and stakeholder consultation in both 2018 and 2019."