Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Decision comes as a relief

For someone like myself, who seems to have spent a lifetime on council debating the future of our town hall, the fact that we are about to make a decision is a relief more than anything else.

This council now has the opportunity to put the whole debate to rest, one way or the other.

Do we rebuild alongside the façade, do we demolish all the buildings on the current site or is there some other option from left field worth consideration? And this is just one of the topics we need to consider.

Whatever the decisions are at our next full council meeting on June 5, one thing is for sure, it will attract huge public interest, and I think all councillors are aware that whatever we decide, we are going to face a heated response from a sector of our residents and ratepayers on more than one of the topics we’ll be deciding on.

We will discover through this consultation process that there are many who are vehemently opposed to us proceeding with the building of a new town hall and many who just as vehemently want to see it happen. We’ll listen to all of them. Consultations aren’t referendums, but they give people the chance to have their say without binding the council to base their decision solely on which option was favoured by the most submitters.

While actual numbers can make a good headline, when it comes to the crunch, they are only part of what we’re being told, so they should not be the only focus. There’s more to consider when the decision-making starts.

I would love $1 for every person who has told me that they did not submit because they believed most elected representatives on this council had campaigned strongly on building a new town hall at the last election and now that they were in office they simply expected them to get on with it. At the same time, I absolutely accept that a good number of people favour demolition, but that they also did not submit.

And as with every consultation process, there will be those who did not submit because they [wrongly, I might add] held the view that no matter what they said, the council wouldn’t listen anyway.

If there is one thing I can vouch for above everything else about the current elected representatives, it is they keep their ears close to the ground. They are constantly seeking the views of their constituents no matter what the issue.

Throughout this consultation, we have been constantly aware that the most important part of it is for us to keep an open mind. Some might see that as being difficult, especially for those of us who have been part of the town hall debate for a decade or more and who have made our feelings very clear on it throughout that time. For me, this latest consultation has not only been about remembering what I stood for over previous debates, but also looking for any new evidence that may prompt a rethink – a genuine possibility. Even I have been persuaded to give some thought toward a new path being taken as this LTP developed.

It’s no secret that I have long been a strong advocate of rebuilding the town hall and retaining the facade and the municipal buildings, but as my vote for the preferred option in this LTP consutlation shows, I have latterly been convinced that the risk of doing this, because of all the unknowns surrounding that option, make it less palatable than it was for me.

Is there anything else I will hear and read in our hearings and deliberations which could change my thinking again? That answer will come when council deliberates publicly on the submissions early next month. I’m looking forward to those discussions and making a decision we can act on, with our deliberations being the catalyst for this.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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