SATURDAY morning street walks have been part of life for Warrnambool City councillors Jennifer Lowe and Peter Hulin for the past four years — now other election candidates have offered to join the tradition.
The candidates have promised that if elected they would endorse a push to have at least two councillors in Liebig Street on Saturday mornings on a roster system.
Councillors Lowe and Hulin initiated the practice soon after their 2008 election victory and even had their “councillor on duty” included in the council’s weekly advertisement in The Standard.
However, about a month later the advertisement was deleted after five other councillors objected to it being promoted as an official council function, arguing that they too met constituents in other forums which were not advertised.
Cr Hulin said this week the initiative was unique in Australia and recently attracted praise from an Irish visitor who said he would suggest to his homeland council that they too adopt the practice.
Cr Lowe described the street talks as grassroots engagement.
“People do respond, particularly the elderly,” she said.
“This gives a more relaxed setting and also makes us more accountable for the decisions we’ve made in council.”
Candidate Graham Ryan said he supported any moves to give opportunity for the community to speak to councillors.
“It’s an ear for the people,” he said. “I would be more than prepared to join the street talks.”
Brian Kelson said some people wanting to express an opinion found it hard to locate a councillor.
“This gives people easy access,” he said.
“I’ve come down a few times to the street talk and found people spoke freely what was on their minds.”
Peter Sycopoulis said Saturday mornings were ideal for people constrained by commitments on other days. “It’s more casual and people are not so inhibited and can speak freely,” he said.
“Anything that makes council accessibility better is good.”
Candidate Percy Eccles said the street talk added a personal touch to council representation.
“If the whole of council was in agreement on this I’d be part of a roster system,” he said.
Adrian Jacobs, a former councillor, also said he would participate in endorsed street talks, but said they did not have to be just in the CBD.