The results are in from the Shire of Esperance 2019 MARKYT Community Scorecard… and it leaves food for thought for residents and Shire representatives alike.
An outstanding number of community members partook in the survey in February, 1650 residents in total the equivalent of a quarter of households.
There were some good, bad and ugly aspects to come out of the findings handed down by Catlyse, the independent company that conducted the research. This will merely be a summary and commentary, feel free to analyse the results yourself at the Esperance Shire website where the entire Strategic Community Survey results are posted.
Sean from the Triple M Esperance Breakfast Show and the Esperance Express’s Jesinta Burton dissected the report card on the show on Friday morning.
The promising results of the survey were probably features that the wider public already knew. Esperance-ians enjoy living in Esperance and they rate it as a good place to visit. Both these aspects scored well in the Community Scorecard, with 76 out of 100, or ranging between good and excellent.
An excellent place to visit is hardly surprising, comments complimenting the beautiful foreshore surrounds and our world class beaches illustrate how proud Esperance is of their town and showing it off to visitors.
The community’s satisfaction with the health and community services available as well as access to good footpaths, trains and cycle ways was reflected in the findings. In general, the survey revealed life around Esperance was pleasant and there appears to be no void when it comes to the necessities in town.
The Disabled Esperance community were consistently disappointed with the Shire’s leadership and consultation. They rated their performance and communication of decisions as lower than any other demographic and by a considerable margin across the board. No matter what the rating, the Disabled community would be trailing, at times up to 10 index points. Between BOICO, Escare, Activ and other community service organisations, the physically disabled community should have a base level of care that is suffice.
Whether the NDIS has undercut these services and hampered their ability to access government funding is a question and issue that needs desperate attention at a federal and state government level. Perhaps a community disgruntlement at the fracture between the bureaucracy and action at the bottom level has been reflected in the survey results.
Mental health appears to be another issue, which will be relieved slightly with the announcement weeks ago that a Head Space will be established in Esperance. Regardless, the state of services for residents suffering mental illness, depression and anxiety, or battling drug addiction is not adequate to the needs of the town. Anecdotally, Esperance has an underlying drug problem, mainly with meth, and the resources to help people overcome their vices just doesn’t match demand. With few professional, local psychologists in town and the unique circumstances that prospective patients are reluctant to seek treatment in fear that their ailment could be leaked out into the community lexicon could contribute to these lower scores.
Although the Shire and Council are reflected badly in this space there is only so much they can do. Regardless there needs to be some content at this discontent section of the community, a dialogue begun to try and bridge the gap and achieve the needs of our disability community members.
This was eluded to before and should not be a surprise to anyone. The majority of Esperance folks, at least 600 of them, believed the Shire was deficient. The survey reveals that in general, the Shire and council were perceived to lack leadership, transparency, and the consultation necessary to run a the community successfully.
Listen to Victoria Brown discussing the results of the Community Scorecard, including the challenges arising from the final document on the Sean for Breakfast Show.
Alarmingly, almost two thirds of Esperance people wouldn’t trust the Shire to make a decision on behalf of them (over 1000 survey participants). Four fifths of residents believed councillors did not have a good understanding of what the community want.
As the Shire President Victoria Brown said, ‘it is a real kick to the solar plexus.
The elephant in the room: the Esperance Jetty. It was the cancer that clearly plagued the results.
A small section of the Esperance community are vehemently against the actions of the Shire who intend to replace the structure with a new project, which is more practical and acknowledges the heritage of the original design.
Whether the majority of residents land on the replace or restore side is irrelevant. Whether restoration is even possible for the 70 year-old project is again irrelevant. The animosity garnered in this particular divisive project has materialised because of the length of time to make a decision.
Residents just want a new jetty. That’s why the results were favourable in the infamous Friends of the Tanker Jetty petition and the contradicting Esperance Jetty survey, also conducted by Catalyse. Whether it’s old or new, replaced or restored, the majority of people just want to be able to walk out, and fish or dive, off a structure that protrudes out into Esperance Bay.
The Shire, admittedly have been tardy on this decision. A debate should have been held immediately once the jetty was shut down to decide on the appropriate course of action. All the facts, material suitability, sustainability of a restoration, costing, and other relevant matters needed to be laid bare on the table over a number of consultation meetings. Once the community sentiment was determined a decision reflecting that needed to be made.
Fighting groups and fear of community backlash on traditional and social media has stalled the process and the community have bleated their discontent at the tardy process, as reflected in this survey. Of course, it isn't easy to manage the expectations and opinions of the public but that simply comes with the territory of running a regional (and passionate) community.
It would almost be certain that the poor results would have improved if this issue didn’t linger as it has done for years. Sadly, our town’s leaders don’t have the luxury of embracing the results with certain aspects left out.
Learnings from here, the Shire needs to approach projects with fierce efficiency. The next few issues will arise when it comes to the Merivale Tip proposal and town centre planning. With patience already tired the Shire and Council will need to consult quickly, and then act just as swiftly, to avoid further more acrimony.
Finally on leadership, consultation and transparency, sure there will be community members who are disenfranchised and resentful. They also need to be reminded that it takes two to communicate, and when it comes to leadership, you need one to lead and the other to support and follow their direction unequivocally for that management to be successful. Just because the Windich Street goes against your wishes and the decisions you want made, doesn’t make them a bad Shire or Council.