“WE are meeting with the planners this afternoon to discuss the Civic Hall redevelopment. Looking at having a moat to keep the ratepayers out.”
At first glance, it might look official. The @ballaratcity Twitter account has an image of the Eureka flag and the name “City of Ballarat”.
But it’s actually a fake, set up to lampoon the goings-on of the city and its officials.
Yesterday, just hours after the council went into caretaker mode, the @ballaratcity account sprung back into life with a wisecrack about Ballarat Grammar School’s plans for a campus at Mt Rowan.
“We’re happy to approve this,” it joked. “The nearby residents are tired of Grammar kids letting their polo ponies wander the streets.”
The account, with more than 600 followers, had been almost completely dormant since January.
Its return coincides with the silencing of the city’s official social media accounts, which have been shut down until the council election.
“Under the Local Government Act 1989 council is limited on release of publications and communications during the caretaker period,” said a city spokesperson.
“Council cannot respond to electoral matters, issues relating to the election or to candidates.
“As such the City of Ballarat will cease social media communications during this period and public posting will be disabled on the City of Ballarat Facebook pages.”
Perhaps the @ballaratcity prankster has returned to fill the void. Some highlights from the parody account since it was launched in 2010 include:
“STILL looking for more entries in the new tourism slogan competition. Don’t think ‘Ballarat: Gold, Old and Bloody Cold’ is going to cut it,” and;
“APOLOGIES. Gary and I have been super busy lately getting our float ready for Begonia Festival. Theme is ‘Parking Inspectors are people too’.”
The Courier yesterday sent a direct message to @ballaratcity asking who was behind the account. There was no reply.
Thankfully for whoever is behind it, the City of Ballarat appears to be taking the ribbings in good humour.
“The @ballaratcity twitter account is clearly identified as not council and therefore council believes it is simply another opportunity for community discussion,” a city spokesperson said.
“We encourage all residents with concerns or feedback to contact the City of Ballarat directly via our Twitter @cityofballarat, or customer service on 5320 5500 or through the website.”
In the description of the fake account, there’s a disclaimer that it is a parody and “more tongue-in-cheek than head-in-sand”.
Janelle Ryan of the Little PR Company said that if the City of Ballarat did have a problem with the account, the best way to deal with it would be to make a complaint to Twitter or counter its jokes with updates from the official account.
You can also follow The Courier on Twitter at @ballaratcourier, but it only occasionally makes jokes.