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Committee for Geelong's Weekly Addy Opinion Piece - Commission of Inquiry

On Monday, the Committee for Geelong hosted a briefing on the Commission of Inquiry into the Greater Geelong City Council by Natalie Hutchins, the Victorian State Minister for Local Government.  Minister Hutchins provided us with a good overview of the reasons behind the Commission of Inquiry, together with the actions the State Government has taken following the Commissioner's findings. 

One such finding was the lack of an evidence-based, long-term vision and plan for Geelong.  Over the past few years, the Committee has been researching second cities and advocating for the development of a specific policy for Victoria's second largest city; a vision to transform Geelong.  We believe that cities such as Geelong need to be considered differently within future policy parameters and decisions.  It is time for a new policy and strategic approach tailored to cities that are not state capitals, but play a larger role than regional townships.

With no intention of replicating what already exists, our research is specific to the municipality of Geelong and supplements other strategic work such as the Geelong Region Plan and the G21 Regional Growth Plan.  Through Geelong's new plan, there is an opportunity for our city to lead the way nationally and provide strategic and policy directions on the future planning, funding and governance arrangements for second cities across Australia. 

Minister Hutchins also confirmed that our community will soon be consulted on Geelong's entire governance model, including the directly elected mayor model, which the Inquiry report recommended should be retained and improved in our City.  The Committee has long been an advocate for this system, but not the model our city was given. 

A directly elected mayoral system is vital for Geelong, and our community is fortunate to have access to this important democratic process. There is evidence that, once a community has experienced a directly elected mayor, they are reluctant to revert to previous systems.  Given the transformation of Geelong, now is not the time to regress to the days of internal council politics determining the leader of our great city.

During her presentation, Minister Hutchins called for our community to support the Administrators and the CEO in their roles.  The Committee welcomes the appointment of the Administrators, and we believe they are all excellently qualified.  We specifically congratulate Peter Dorling who was the Committee's founding CEO. 

The Administrators have many challenges ahead and we believe that all the recommendations outlined in the Inquiry report must be implemented before they leave office.  The Committee has reservations whether the current appointment period to October 2017 provides sufficient time for this.  Minister Hutchins clearly indicated that a community call for an extension to the appointment period would be considered.  If it becomes clear that the recommendations have not been satisfactorily completed, we will advocate to Parliament for an extension.

The Committee remains dedicated to supporting the long term growth and prosperity of Geelong and we look forward to working with the City of Greater Geelong, in partnership with others, for the betterment of our city.

Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter @Comm4Geelong.



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