CREDIT where credit is due. The Warrnambool City Council should be basking in the sunshine of our love (and that of the 15,000 or so summer visitors to the city) right now.
Under generally clear skies, the city looks its best. The beaches are heaving with fun activities for visitors and locals alike, Lake Pertobe is pumping with the carnival, Jurassic Dinosaurs and families having a ball.
Thus far the council’s events strategy is bearing fruit. It will be more than interesting to see visitors numbers, bed nights and the resultant financial benefits data later this year but it looks and feels good right now.
Comparisons in this space are useful. What other city or region of our size has this much going on across summer?
Very few, if any. Even fewer have the curious mix of service delivery roles the council finds itself with, some by design, others less so.
Today’s News Focus on pages 4-5 shows just how much these services cost to run and how much the council contributes. The full lists can be found in the council’s annual general report and its submission to the Essential Services Commission.
But the contribution some of these facilities and services make cannot be simply tallied up in a financial spreadsheet.
What, for example, are the wider cultural and social benefits of the art gallery? And is Flagstaff Hill a great idea that urgently needs re-imagining for an era very different to the one in which it was built?
It is simplistic to argue rates shouldn’t rise and services and staff should be cut to ensure council lives within current budgets.
What is needed is a sensible and inclusive discussion of what we as residents and ratepayers (and these two groups are not the same) see council’s role, what services we want and which ones are needed to drive growth, development and amenity.
And what role can other governments and the private sector play?
It can only be hoped that the new-look and refreshed council, ratepayers association, other stakeholders and ratepayers and residents can collectively contribute to a sensible plan and the leadership required to take the city (and region) forward.