Archive for May, 2011

Canberra Leaders Forum – refreshing!

May 19, 2011

 A number of Cockatoo members attended a very interesting Leaders Forum on 17 May to advance the RDA ACT Regional Plan. Main points (at least in our eyes):

  • Speakers’ times limited to 8 minutes – even the ACT Chief Ministers and other MPs kept it brief (gee it worked well). James O’Loghlin (ABC New Inventors) was the MC and knew his stuff, having grown up inCanberra.
  • The 80 or so attendees were pretty senior and only 10% were born inCanberra- remarkable.
  • The consensus was that Canberra doesn’t play to its strengths and needs to build points of difference other than the seat of government. The bad political news coming fromCanberra and the constant criticism from shock jocks needs to be countered.
  • New federal MP Andrew Leigh emphasised Canberra’s strong social capital – which is not appreciated outside Canberra. He did his Ph D thesis on this? Senator Kate Lundy (parl. sec. to PM) also a strong champion – long RD history via ACRDC, Canberra Development Board!
  •  Light Rail could possibly work if initially confined to the low hanging fruit i.e. corridor comprising Kingston-Manuka-Parliamentary Triangle-Civic-Dickson with its mix of medium density housing, hotels and office accommodation.
  • Neil Savery (CEO, ACT Planning) stuck his neck out and said urban consolidation is on the way, and pollies must not cave in to lobby groups. Minister Corbell reacted in press the next day.
  • The Parliamentary Triangle is seen as a real jewel – but arguably needs ‘something’ to connect the individually outstanding facilities, to create a BUZZ factor. We are following up.

If the ACT wanted to be proactive re industry development, there are standouts:

– education (Australia’s best university & secondary schools

– environmental management (establish Centre of Excellence;  measure ecological footprint; set some cost-effective targets)

– creative industries (leverage educated population; shed staid image)

– sports medicine (AIS, JohnCurtin Medical School, ICT)

RDA Fund – only for the serious

May 6, 2011

Councils in Australia seeking to position themselves for this funding should note that it is a competitive process – thus if you are not committed to a quality submission, don’t even think about it.

The reason is that Minister Crean wants projects that stack up in terms of economic and social performance, leaving him to handle any political fall-out. (Remember the ill-considered Tumby Creek project that brought down the Howard Government’s RD program?).

 Related points to note are (1) Crean’s Department is building to around 200 officers, and probably 35-40% of them will be assessing project applications or administering the outcomes; (2) Crean will leave the decisions to his Department based on its assessment of which projects best meet the criteria; (3) the Department has no funding for scoping up projects to meet the criteria.

To explain, there are five criteria – funding leveraged from other sources; contribution to sustainable regional growth and/or community benefit; ongoing viability; capability of managing the project; level of support to regional communities (for the not-for-profit projects).

 The most important criterion is the ‘contribution to sustainable regional growth and/or community benefit’ because if you can’t nail this, everything else is irrelevant. In this regard, I strongly advise councils to focus on projects that conform with your regional competitive advantage and capable of generating widespread community and funding support.

 We therefore specialise in preparing scoping papers that explain the what-why-how-when-who-how much. However neither the RDA portfolio nor its 55 committees will fund scoping studies or provide advice (due to the competitive neutrality requirement). My suggestion is thus that councils partner with their relevant state RD agency to fund this work.

 Finally, councils might look at establishing networks and clusters, because they could be very helpful in developing and pitching for grants under the RDA Fund.

City of Melville – track record on addressing alcohol abuse

May 5, 2011

I am constantly amazed at the amount kids drink these days – a dozen schooners in a sitting is considered quite normal. Add to that the perils of the Ice Age, and no wonder we have mounting social and safety problems.

Well, suburbanCanberrawas downright boring by comparison at Easter. But on came a news item featuring a DVD on teen binge drinking. Gee it was an earthy, quality effort, and it transpired that the City ofMelvillein WA was the producer of the video.

Intrigued at how a council is absolutely on the pace here, I did some googling and located Janet Armarego (Health and Wellbeing Coordinator) who explained that the DVD, called The Gathering, highlights a typical adolescent gathering which spirals out of control due to an over supply of alcohol and the arrival of gatecrashers. The hard hitting themes in the 26 minute video include sexual assault, violence, glassing and alcohol poisoning. The Mayor, Russell Aubrey, says the script was written with the input of 150 teenagers who described the real and dangerous situations in which they find themselves.

Janet explained that the cost was around $130,000, and that it had taken three years to organise the funding. In the end, she found partners in LotteryWest ($48k), Healthwise ($30k), Rockingham Council ($10k) and City ofPerth ($10k). The City ofMelville stumped up the balance.

I was still flummoxed at how a suburban council could pull this off, so Janet explained that there were three success factors:

  • the progressive philosophy of the organisation.
  • strong community need (e.g. eleven high schools) and strong engagement, which led to an accurate reflection of community factors.
  • cost-effective delivery.

 I checked further and her analysis rings true because the council won other awards in the same field, including one in 2008 for a DVD about the consequences for six local lads of drink-driving.. And the funding partnership was certainly cost-effective.

The DVD (with resource material) is being provided free to all senior schools in the council area, and sold to outsiders for $60.

Well I got to thinking. Here is a council that clearly doing best practice work for the public benefit. The issue is big and everywhere. Wouldn’t it be great if the federal government could now swing in and to take it national? We are helping Janet to connect the dots. Her contact details are janet.armarego@melville.wa.gov.au  or 1300- 635845.

THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE MAY 2011 EDITION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FOCUS.