City of Whittlesea administrators Bruce Billson has resigned. He is pictured with Lydia Wilson and Peita Duncan.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

BETTER lighting on roads and paths, separate bike lanes, more education and employment opportunities for young people, and introduction of a cat curfew to protect native fauna were among key issues raised at a City of Whittlesea community meeting last week.

Other issues raised included a lack of adequate public toilets, rubbishing dumping, and the building delays on the proposed aquatic and sporting facility in Mernda. 

City of Whittlesea residents attended a virtual question and answers meeting with council administrators and chief executive Craig Lloyd on Thursday evening, as the first step towards writing the 2021-25 council plan. 

Mr Lloyd also addressed community feedback of poor council customer service, citing the results of a survey of more than 2000 residents.

“It’s very clear to me that our customer service isn’t good enough,” he said.

“The service [residents] receive along the way, the updates they receive and the way we go about providing those is less than perfect. So we’re investing in retraining of our staff, looking at new IT systems, looking at our processes as well and moving a lot of things online.”

More than 100 joined the Zoom meeting to provide feedback on what was most important to residents within their municipality. 

Council also received more than 200 questions in the lead-up to the meeting, every one of which it committed to answering in the coming weeks.

“Tonight is just the start of a conversation about our next council plan … and we’re just so excited to hear from you about your priorities for the next four years,” City of Whittlesea administrator chair Lydia Wilson said.

Administrators and Mr Lloyd hoped the meeting would kick-off a productive term, after the city’s elected councillors were dismissed by the State Government in March 2020 for serious breaches of governance and procedure.

Government-appointed administrators will run the city until the next local election in 2025, and administrator Peita Duncan insisted they would be effective. 

“We are not here just to warm a seat, so to speak, we do have big plans for the municipality,” she said.

Mr Lloyd and Ms Wilson said the overarching question of the meeting was about where council should focus its efforts during the next four years to support the community, especially as it reels from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the meeting, residents were invited to write their thoughts on a shared brainstorm webpage under four headings covering health and safety, liveability, local economy, and the environment and climate change. 

Members were able to vote up or like ideas that they wanted to see more of within the community. 

Many participants also spoke about what they loved most about their community, mentioning green spaces and parklands, diversity and inclusivity.

During the public discussion at the end of the meeting, one resident who had been in the area for five years, said he had never experienced a community that was so connected, adding it was the first urban area he had lived where he knew the names of all of his neighbours and their children.