Implementation of plans is the real problem

Democracy - the ballot box

Forum –

The Central Coast Friends of Democracy (CCFoD) is very critical of the poor planning and the lack of infrastructure in Central Coast (“Communities need to take the lead on better planning”, PP 036).

I doubt that anybody will disagree that the quality of local planning has been abysmal, where it existed at all, but the logical transition to the proposition that it will be better under an elected local government than under an Administrator is harder to perceive.

CCFoD points out all the defects of planning that Central Coast has suffered from but signally fails to mention that these all arose under democratically elected local councils: Central Coast hasn’t been under administration long enough for any impact to be perceptible.

To mention only one point, it was the Council that instructed the Planning Office to prepare local plans on the basis of wards, instead of on the basis of planning modules, as recommended by the professionals.

If councillors are going to intervene fundamentally in the planning process in such a stupid and counterproductive way, how can anyone expect the professionals to come up with anything worthwhile?

There is nothing wrong with having a meeting of community groups on planning.

In fact, I’d be heartily in favour of such a meeting, although I’d doubt that anything concrete could arise from it, for the simple reason that the average person has little grasp of the technical complexities of the subject and no vision of the overall regional context.

Nevertheless, it is always helpful to hear a variety of positions put, since one of a planner’s main jobs is to try to reconcile often diametrically opposed goals of different groups.

However, it is unrealistic to suppose that a grouping of this kind will “take the lead on better planning for our region”.

Not very long ago, a similar group drew up an ambitious strategic plan for Central Coast which, despite its faults, had some measure of credibility, but nothing ever came of it, even under a democratically elected council, because it was politically unrealistic.

It is a little puzzling that CCFoD is disturbed that the State Planning Department is not represented in Central Coast.

I take it as a general thing that the State Planning Department is not represented in LGAs except in unusual circumstances, but, in any case, one of the principles of the CCFoD seems to be that it doesn’t want unelected bureaucrats from outside the region interfering in local matters, so why should this be a matter of concern?

If the CCFoD can come up with a viable Central Coast plan, my experience is that the State Planning Department will be only too happy to support it: bureaucrats always welcome having their jobs made easier for them, so non-participation by the State Planning Department should be a positive feature of the effort.

When you get down to it, better planning isn’t the main problem.

The most serious deficiency is horribly inadequate implementation.

If CCFoD addressed itself to this one issue, it could make a serious contribution, but it requires not only technical understanding but also local-government management skills that, I suspect, lie outside the competence of any group the CCFoD could put together.

Email, Nov 21
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy