Working with local authorities

Background

Locomote is a Walkability Action Group that represents three coastal communities on the Northern Bellarine Peninsula – Indented Head, St Leonards and Portarlington.

Members of the group initially came together as a result of a government study on aging in coastal communities. They found that they shared common interests in wanting their communities to become more liveable and walkable. Soon afterwards, they decided to form Locomote to continue pursuing their interests.

Overview

Locomote meet monthly to discuss and highlight concerns in their area. These include lobbying council and local authorities on issues related to open spaces, encouraging developments to be more pedestrian friendly, improving facilities and amenities as wLocomote members 2012ell as safety and local infrastructure for their respective towns.

Locomote has found that the combined voice of 3 communities has brought many advantages. Members feel stronger being part of a larger group and work constructively to incorporate the interests of the 3 areas, rather than being in competition against each other.

“There is no momentum on your own. The collective nature of our group adds to our credibility and strength.” Presenting a united front, Locomote members feel empowered by their collective experience and confidently speak out to demand changes to improve liveability and walkability.

As each member is also well linked to networks within their own communities (eg. community associations), they are able to draw from a broad base of strength and support.

Achievements

To date, the group has effectively added their voice to several important local developments, including:

  • Input to Bellarine Bayside's North Bellarine Foreshore Plan and the Coastal Trail Project;
  • Local infrastructure redevelopment (St Leonard's Lake, Portarlington street improvements);
  • Submissions to the development of new subdivisions to enhance walkability, including deviation of bus route to travel closer to housing estates.
  • Involvement in community festivals around walkabilty promotion - "leave the car at home" message.
 Locomote helps to launch Northern Bellarine Foreshore Planning Project  Locomote promotes walking at local festival

- Locomote successfully lobbied for impovements to Coastal Trail

Bellraine Times 8 Feb 2011 Geelong Advertiser 17 Feb 2011 Surf Coast Times 22 Feb 2011

Tips on working effectively with council and authorities

Locomote is highly effective at engaging their council and local authorities. Here are their tips for building a constructive relationship:

  • Locomote planning meetingAvoid treating council or the relevant authority as a faceless monolith;
  • If you have an issue or need to raise your concerns, talk to someone in council and where possible, have face to face meetings with staff;
  • It is important not to label the person with the ‘sins’ of the organisation or ‘sins’ of the past;
  • Seek to understand how council or bureaucracy works by engaging in regular dialogue;
  • Acknowledge and understand council officers’ workloads and other constraints such as budgets, internal processes and organisational dynamics;
  • Support council officers to make better decisions by providing them with information and feedback in a constructive manner.

Other useful tips

  • Strength in numbers - don’t do it alone. Utilise older members of your community, draw on existing networks and develop new ones wherever possible;
  • Be resilient and strong, feisty and passionate;
  • Be disciplined, persistent, follow through and keep issues on track;
  • Seek a knowledgeable and constructive source of feedback on your group's activities and direction as it is invaluable to remember your achievements as well as thinking about what the group is aiming for.