From the Newsroom

CVC commits to improving community engagement

Geoff Helisma

While Clarence Valley’s electors awaited the makeup of the new council, Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) acting general manager, Laura Black, has announced the implementation of “an annual program of community engagement events in the various villages and towns around the Clarence Valley”.

She said in a media release that the initiative, which will be rolled out in 2022, is the result of “CVC’s new executive team … reviewing how it engages with the community”.

Ms Black said, “A limited program was trialled in May and June 2021, with staff engaging with the community in Grafton, Maclean, and Yamba.

“This was welcomed by more than 100 residents who took the opportunity to discuss various matters with senior staff.”

Ms Black is referring to three multi-day, public information sessions – held at Maclean, Grafton and Yamba during May and June this year – to receive feedback about the Clarence 2027 Community Strategic Plan, which is reviewed with the election of each new council.

“We continue to hear from some smaller communities that staff are not accessible to residents,” Ms Black said.

“The engagement program will provide residents with access to senior staff to talk about operational activities that affect them, and it gives an opportunity for the staff to discuss planned projects with community members.

Director environment and planning Adam Cameron said in the media release that CVC is also “planning to introduce a scheduled program of meetings with developers to discuss improvements in the development assessment process.

“We’d like to catch up with individual builders and the project home industry more regularly,” he said.

“There have been a significant number of changes across development certification processes in recent years and having an opportunity to discuss new requirements with those who are directly affected would be beneficial all-around.”

The media release states that CVC’s senior staff have, for some time, been meeting with the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation’s (TOAC) executive board and management team.

“In 2022, council’s executive team hopes to establish similar relationships with other traditional owners’ corporations and local aboriginal land councils across all three Aboriginal nations [Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl] within the boundary of the Clarence Valley local government area,” the media release states.

However, there are publicly unknown decisions and ongoing negotiations regarding Calypso Holiday Park in Yamba and Brooms Head Holiday Park.

The ongoing Calypso native title-related negotiations put $6,720,000 NSW Government grant at risk – it’s conditional pending the completion of the park’s upgrade by August 2022 – and the estimated cost had blown out from $8.75million to $15.5million, as of January this year.

At the October CVC meeting, councillors were split (crs Novak, Ellem and Clancy were opposed) when voting on the suspension of transitional camping for the 2021-22 holiday season, on the basis that it could “compromise negotiations of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with the Yaegl Registered Native Title Body Corporation” while “noting that the negotiations are ongoing and that these negotiations are a priority focus for CVC”.

Works and civil director Jamie Fleeting said meeting with the Yaegl TOAC “had been extremely beneficial to understanding the impact of our projects on Country”.

“Strengthening our relationships with the traditional owners is something we are looking forward to in coming years,” he said.

Ms Black said in the media release that “2021/2022 introduced a new look to the organisation’s annual operational plan, which has added a level of transparency around deliverables”.

“The former council approved the preparation of a CVC magazine that will strengthen our communications around completed key projects, how they were funded and their value,” she said.

“It will also highlight upcoming projects, including opportunities for participation in project planning. 

“We know we have our critics, and in some cases that’s understandable, however, there are many more residents who just want to know who we are, what’s happening and when it will be done. 

“Our forward plans are being developed to fill those gaps.”