Now you're a councillor

Now you're a councillor

A site for women councillors in Victorian local government

Only commit after checking the facts first…

Councillor Ann Potter was elected to Hume Council in 2000 and remembers well her first lesson in land use planning…

“Soon after I was first elected, a long time ago now but still a vivid memory, I received an invitation to attend the opening of a large new children’s playground constructed by a property developer in a new subdivision.  As well as receiving the invitation I also got a call from the property developer inviting me to come up and see the playground being constructed.  As a mother of two kids this concept excited me, a massive playground that was suited to all ages being built in my area, so I took up all the invitations with vigour.  The opening day was a great success.

A few days after the opening I received a memo from council indicating that the appropriate permits for the construction of the playground had not been issued.  

It seemed to me to be minor at the time as it was a facility that was really needed in the area.  However the residents that lived in close proximity, held different views and felt that the playground was spoiling their amenity.  They had a lot more traffic than they had in the past, and hundreds of little kids having fun and making noise.

Well, after months of trying to negotiate with both the residents and the developer, we called in a professional mediator who worked wonders.  The residents felt that their concerns were being taken seriously and the applicant (the developer) realised that they had a major problem on their hands.

The final outcome to all of this was that the developer decided that it was in their best interest to voluntarily downsize the playground and guarantee that they would reconstruct it on a site more appropriate taking into account that they would need to apply for another permit.

Lessons I have learnt:

  • Before you commit yourself one way or the other, check with council officers.
  • Always have an open mind and accept that what may seem like a good idea to you may not be to others.
  • In a majority of planning issues the law is “black and white” and emotion means nothing.
  • Never commit yourself to supporting or not supporting an application until you have researched all of the facts.
  • Listen to the people of the area; after all it is they who you are representing.
  • And never, never attend an opening without finding out that they have the appropriate permits.”
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