Gympie Mayor Mick Curran

July 17, 2019

Gympie Regional Council will begin a “stakeholder engagement program” next month in a bid to allay local business concerns about its planning processes.

It has also begun an internal review within Council linked to planning.

A statement, released by the GRC this week, said the moves followed “12 months of community feedback regarding the delivery of the upcoming Economic Development and Investment strategy”.

The statement also acknowledged a business breakfast held last month at the Gympie Civic Centre where “significant concerns were raised regarding the Council planning process for the Gympie region”.

Shortly after the breakfast, an anonymous “open letter” published by media – allegedly penned by local businesspeople – accused Mayor Mick Curran of wasting money on his “train set” (ie. the Gympie Rattler) while potential new businesses wanting to set up in the region were walking away “shaking their heads in pure frustration” at Council.

It called for Council to be run “as a business”.

The statement released by the GRC this week acknowledged “feedback and concerns” in regards to the planning process.

It said Council had engaged a third party consultant to “perform a comprehensive engagement process with a view to understand ways that Council can improve the planning process for the business and industry sectors and the community overall”.

“An internal process with staff has commenced, reviewing our internal processes to better support the user experience,” the statement continued.

“The project will look at the issues raised and include a range of one-on-one and focus group style sessions with stakeholders such as major developers, professionals involved in the planning process (eg. engineering and planning consultants and legal representatives), objectors to past developments and proponents to both successful and unsuccessful applications.

“The engagement also needs to include applicants who have had no experience in the complex world of planning applications. It has been recognised that for the change to be effective, it has to be built upon objective feedback based on facts and experience.”

Mayor Curran said it was important to ensure the region’s planning systems were not only user-friendly but also able to perform the important role of guiding the growth and development of the region “while ensuring a fair and equitable environment when competing interests are presented”.

“The objective is to have an enabling culture which supports sustainable economic development and protects the lifestyle and amenity of the region,” he said.

“This initiative is a good example of council undertaking true engagement with a cross-section of stakeholders in order to get a better outcome for the community.”

“Council, like any large organisation, needs to continue to strive to do better on all fronts.”

The Council statement said outcomes from the stakeholder engagement program were expected to include:

  • Improvements to council’s processes and the way it deals with applicants,
  • Improved upfront information provided to applicants and the community on how the planning system operates,
  • An increase in the quality of planning applications by consultants, and
  • A better understanding by all stakeholders of each other’s role.

“Once consultation with stakeholders is complete actions will be developed,” the statement continued.

“These findings will also be available to stakeholders and residents later in the year.

“Community engagement will commence next month.”

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