The Byron Shire is well known as a domestic and international tourist destination, with over two million annual visitors. Local residents and tourists alike place significant value on the unique character of the area and its lifestyle.
The conundrum before Council is how to balance protection of that character with demands for more, and higher quality, infrastructure.
With rates recently increased, the next issue to be addressed was: how should the money generated through the rate increase and earmarked for expenditure on infrastructure be prioritised, and how should those priorities be funded if rates alone are not enough?
Council engaged with the community thoroughly on this front; going deeper in talking about how resources should be allocated over coming years, embarking on the hard conversations about priorities, growth, development and service levels. Like many other small, regional councils, they needed to do this within limited means and find a way to genuinely build a role for residents as a complementary voice and input in making public decisions.
Byron Shire Council worked with the newDemocracy Foundation to operate a community deliberation that delivered the informed voice of everyday people.
We undertook a bespoke jury-style process – a Community Solutions Panel – so that a group of randomly-selected local residents armed with time, free access to information, a clear authority and given the starting point of possible solutions (prepared by active interests and Council), were able to reach a shared, considered judgement.
Byron Shire has many active interests including an array of groups, organisations (formal and informal) and vocal individuals. All have considered various solutions to community dilemmas. They will each brought a perspective to bear on this question. Engaging these organisations and individuals to provide input to the material presented to the panel and to produce the potential solutions available to the panellists was a unique element of this project.
The Community Solutions Panel was tasked with addressing what infrastructure spending Council should prioritise, and how should these priorities should be fund if the rates alone are not enough. Council has committed that the Panel's recommendations will be implemented in the Delivery Program when it is adopted in June 2018.
'Community Panel Report' - Mayor Simon Richardson - Byron Shire News - April 19 2018
'Courageously avoiding responsibility' - Bryon Echo - Feb 7 2018
'Attack on Byron councillors unjustified' - Byron Echo - Feb 12 2018
'OPINION - Show us your money makers' - Byron Shire News - Feb 22 2018
'Councillor calls for more scrutiny of finances' - Byron Echo - March 14 2018
'Q&A with Byron Community Solutions Panelists' - Byron Echo - March 21 2018