TRANSPARENCY was the overwhelming cry from Ballarat voters for what they want in a new council.
Openness and honesty was the running theme in a series of key issues raised by candidates and residents in a public forum at the University of Ballarat SMB campus yesterday.
The forum, organised by the Ballarat Residents and Ratepayers Association, was a final question-and-answer panel with candidates from all three Ballarat City Council wards before voting papers started to roll out this month.
Eighteen of the 22 standing candidates also offered two-minute presentations – central ward candidate Matthew Freeman was represented by Catherine Laffey – with most emphasising the need for clearer communication in local government to ensure that Ballarat was a vibrant place to live and work.
The Civic Hall was a popular example for council planning gone wrong, but major topics mooted were the vision for the Eureka Stadium precinct, graffiti art and youth spaces, the controversial saleyards relocation, and exactly what would be needed to ensure openness and transparency in city issues and projects.
The basis for most answers was greater and more consistent communication between councillors and City of Ballarat senior managers.
South ward candidate Joshua Morris said this hinged on mutual respect between councillors and the city’s chief executive officer in creating and implementing change and progress.
“If information is not flowing to the councillors themselves from the council officers, then the council officers have to get that info out there,” Mr Morris said.
“If the council officers are withholding that information from the public, from the councillors, there’s very little they can do.
“That’s why it’s so important the relationship between the CEO and councillors is one of mutual respect and openness so we can get the information out to the public.”
North ward candidate Daniel Moloney said there were different ways of communicating information and the city must appreciate that, while dealing with private businesses, the public still had a right to know how much was being spent on projects so processes remained accountable.
Councillor Samantha McIntosh (central ward) said big decisions relied on good information and it was often frustrating to ask and not be given appropriate detail to do a job properly.
Communication with Ballarat’s young people was also a key issue raised yesterday, with strong candidate support for improving services and programs for the city’s youth, particularly street art.
North ward candidate Vicki Coltman spoke about issues faced in her work with a not-for-profit organisation in helping the community to appreciate the art form.
Questions to candidates were registered and taken on the floor.
The BRRA will make registered questions that were not answered in the allotted time available to all candidates to consider.
The forum received apologies from north ward candidate Amy Johnson, central ward candidate John Burt and south ward candidates Matt Mattson and David Eldridge.