The East Gippsland Shire Council is undertaking an investigation of future options for access to Raymond Island and is seeking your participation in this process.
The East Gippsland Shire will be hosting community discussion sessions which will provide more information, discuss the survey results and provide the opportunity for questions from community members.
A community survey has also been posted to Raymond Island property owners and occupants and promoted to the East Gippsland community so that information can be gathered on the opinions of the community.
If you wish to complete the survey online, please use the following link.
East Gippsland Shire Council is undertaking an investigation of future options for access to Raymond Island and is seeking your participation in this process.
A Community Engagement Strategy has been prepared to guide the process of community participation.
All interested persons (including, but not limited to the Raymond Island community) have the opportunity to obtain information, express their views, comment on issues and participate in the process.
A Raymond Island Access Committee has been formed to liaise with the Shire throughout the process and a Community Engagement Plan has been prepared.
Notes of the Committee’s meetings are available here.
Why is the review being undertaken?
The aim is to identify a preferred means of access to Raymond Island that provides best value for money and meets the needs of the community. The Council has made a genuine and public commitment to engage fully with all people affected and to provide a transparent decision-making process. The Council has no pre-conceived views as to the preferred form of access.
A recommendation needs to be made to the Council by December 2011.
How can you be involved?
There are many opportunities to be involved. A survey will be mailed to all property owners and occupants on Raymond Island. Information will also be made available via the Shire’s web site, local newspapers, the Raymond Island website, so that any community member in East Gippsland can also complete the survey.
“Community discussion” sessions will also be held at the Raymond Island community hall at 7pm on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 22nd September which will provide an opportunity to express your views and hear the views of others. Both discussions will follow the same format, so there is no need to attend both unless you are really keen.
Anyone can complete the survey. It can be completed and returned by post or completed on-line.
Review of Raymond Island Access - Community Engagement Plan
Raymond Island contains 1126 properties (559 developed and approximately 483 residents (2006 Census), whose sole means of public access to the “mainland” via Paynesville is the Raymond Island ferry.
The island is approximately eight squarekilometres; most of the privately-owned land is fully subdivided in accordance with the zoning. The vast majority of the Island is constrained from future development by Crown land tenure, environmental and vegetation protection requirements. It is unlikely that any significant change in the current development pattern for the Island will occur.
Raymond Island is a unique place in its geography, environmental values, flora and fauna, community identity and sense of place.
The Raymond Island Urban Design Framework (UDF), adopted by Council in 2007, describes the local character as follows:
The extensive remnant natural vegetation (and the associated fauna) on the Island, which provides a bushland setting for most development and frames vistas to and from the Island. The detachment from the mainland fosters a quiet and tranquil lifestyle f or residents and visitors. There is a low intensity of development and activity exemplified by buildings that are generally modest in height and mass with interspersed vegetation, unmade roads, few hard edges.
The Vision for Raymond Island is described in the UDF as follows:
Raymond Island will be acknowledged as a unique village and rural residential locality set within the heart of the Gippsland Lakes. Its bushland setting, natural values and quiet lifestyle will be maintained and it will be recognised as a destination where sustainability is a key element in all activities conducted on the Island.
Limited new low intensity development, consistent with this vision will be provided for and the Island will be seen as an attractive visitor destination for nature based tourism experiences. Non-car based circulation on the Island will be well provided for and promoted.
Raymond Island will be conveniently accessed from adjacent Paynesville, which will also provide most essential goods and services for Raymond Island residents and visitors.
Raymond Island residents enjoy a close-knit community with a very strong sense of identity. The social and cultural history of the Island is founded on physical isolation, a sense of “difference” and a reliance on a sometimes unreliable, yet popular ferry service to Paynesville. Ferry services of many varieties have connected Raymond Island to Paynesville for the past 120 years and are part of the community’s sense of identity.
The Raymond Island UDF has this to say about access:
It is noted however that the ferry based service sets the scene for the Island’s character. Raymond Island is clearly separate from Paynesville, the pace of life is slower and the level of activity less. The process of catching the ferry reinforces this transition. There is an initial wait, anticipation, a short but slow journey and dispersal into a different environment. The ferry reinforces the fact that Raymond Island is not part of or a mere extension of the mainland. This arrangement is unique in the region. However, notwithstanding the views concerning the importance of the ferry service to the character of the Island, there are clearly other issues regarding access that need to be addressed, such as convenience, equity, safety, cost and commercial opportunity.
The Raymond Island ferry service was taken over by East Gippsland Shire Council from VicRoads in the 1990s. Since that time, the cost of operating the ferry, including major maintenance costs, has escalated. In 2009/10 the net cost of providing the service was $339,539. In 2010/11 the projected net cost is $603,000. Total rates income from the island in 2010/11 was $662,643.
Upon commissioning, the existing ferry had a projected life of approximately 30 years, however recent maintenance difficulties and operational costs would suggest that the ferry’s operational life may not go far beyond about 2020-2025. Operating costs are likely to continue to rise over that period.
Given the lead times to identify, evaluate and procure a new transport service, planning needs to commence now to ensure an appropriate transition to the next mode of access.
This is reflected in the Council Plan 2009-13, which includes an action as follows:
“Develop a plan to resolve access to Raymond Island”.
The Local Government Act and Council Plan place a focus on the role of community engagement in the planning and delivery of community services.
Community engagement can take many forms, but the principles of engagement include: a planned approach, consideration of specific community characteristics, transparency, building mutual trust, inclusiveness and, above all, clarity as to the purpose of the engagement.
The IAP2 (International Association of Public Participation) public participation continuum (which informs national best practice and is the basis of Council’s draft community engagement strategy) requires clarity as to the level of engagement proposed, ranging from “inform” to “empower”.
For complex and potentially controversial decisions on matters of public policy, it is desirable for engagement to begin early, to be well-managed and documented and to be transparent. If Council expects the community to actively participate in decision-making, but wishes to retain the overall decision-making power, then the desired level of participation would be somewhere between “involve” and “collaborate”. Collaboration implies that the decision-making authority intends to work closely with stakeholders through a range of mechanisms such as workshops, forums and focus groups, keeping stakeholders involved as key players along the way. A level of participation less than “involve” will not achieve public acceptance.
Bearing in mind that the Council imperative is to “develop a plan”, community engagement should commence at the outset of the process to ensure that the plan is appropriately scoped and meets community expectations as to the process that will be used to “resolve access to Raymond Island”. Without community buy-in and agreement to this plan, its legitimacy will be potentially subject to subsequent challenge.
A comprehensive engagement process is also likely to generate innovative thinking, healthy interaction and a better outcome for all parties.
This Strategy outlines the broad community engagement process considered most appropriate for successfully achieving the Council Plan action in relation to Raymond Island access.
Community Engagement Purpose
Based on the above, the purpose of the engagement process is:
To ensure a high level of community and stakeholder involvement in the process of preparing a plan for future access to Raymond Island.
Key tasks/outputs for the project
This engagement plan intends to ensure appropriate community involvement at each of the steps in preparing a plan for future access.
Broadly, these are:
1. Scope identification - clear statement as to the purpose and drivers of the project, the parameters of the investigation, the principles to be applied and the process to be adopted.
2. Background analysis - identification of key issues that inform the present position - past decisions, current service standards and cost, community needs, social/cultural values, financial status of existing service, legislative/statutory obligations.
3. Identification of service options - maintain existing ferry, upgrade existing ferry, replace ferry, bridge, tunnel, none of the above, others. Determine desirable level of service and explore comparable examples.
Raymond Island residents and property owners Raymond Island Community Association Paynesville residents Shire ratepayers Paynesville Business and Tourism Association Visitors Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club Friends of Gippsland Lakes Others?
Department of Sustainability and Environment Gippsland Ports East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority Gippsland Coastal Board VicRoads Department of Planning and Community Development
Council Executive Group Relevant Business Units
Bairnsdale Advertiser Raymond Island Newsletter - “Raymond Island Matters” Shire website Raymond Island website Ferry shelter noticeboards Direct mail to landowners and residents Formal meetings/workshops Face to face communication
Communications (as above) Face to face meetings Public workshops Community Consultative Group Survey/s
Inclusiveness - All voices will be heard Responsiveness - People will be kept updated at key stages Openness - All reasonable options will be considered and discussed Transparency - the process will be evidence-based with wide access to information and accountability for decisions Sustainability - Preserving community identity, maximizing effectiveness of service and financial viability, quantifying whole of life costs, considering economic and social value, minimising environmental impact, seeking innovation.
Objectives of engagement
Agreement on the process for preparing the plan and for involving the community. Timely input into decision-making at each stage. Transparency of the final decision. Council and community confidence that community views have been aired and considered.
Full and publicly available documentation Free availability of supporting information Agreed project success measures - technical assessment and community engagement Core community group for initial and on-going contact with the community. Complaints management/resolution process Communications plan Independent monitoring/peer review Final (post-recommendation) process evaluation
Meeting of East Gippsland Shire Council representatives with the Raymond Island Access Committee Meeting 1 24th June 2011
East Gippsland Shire Council is undertaking an investigation of future options for access to Raymond Island.
A Community Engagement Plan has been prepared to provide a process for ensuring that all stakeholders have the opportunity to express their views, comment on issues and participate in the process.
The Raymond Island Community Association has convened a “Raymond Island Access Committee”, consisting of a range of community members, to act as a first point of contact with the Shire and to assist in ensuring community involvement in the process.
Role of the Group
The main role of the Committee is to:
· Assist in facilitating the consultation process · Provide input and feedback on issues relevant to the investigation · Identify and comment on pros & cons of various options · Review and provide feedback on the outcomes of the investigation.
The Committee was formed at the request of the Raymond Island Community Association and members all nominated themselves. The Committee is not a decision-making body. The elected Council will ultimately make any decisions on future options. However the Committee will assist with managing the process by providing a forum for discussion and community input. All Committee members have agreed that their role is not to advocate for any particular outcome other than that which is finally determined to be the most cost-effective, sustainable and in the best interests of the entire community.
The Committee is one of many mechanisms for community engagement, which will also include community surveys, meetings and workshops, etc. Community members and other stakeholders who are not members of the Committee will have ample opportunity to contribute their views.
Provide background information on the reason for the investigation Clarify the scope of the investigation and matters that need to be considered Carry out an initial identification of Island access options and their pros and cons
Gordon Charles, Manager Assets, East Gippsland Shire Council Martin Richardson, Manager Strategic Planning, East Gippsland Shire Council Fae Rossetti Tom Ponting Jack Pearce Jack Holbrook Kate McKinnon Peter Jones Ian Lewis Glen Williams
Brian Halpin Warwick Hall
Martin Richardson provided an introduction, summarised as follows: The Council has a need to consider options for future access to Raymond Island and this has been publicly identified for approximately 18 months in the Council Plan. The review is driven by concerns regarding the operating cost of the ferry and the financial burden that this places on ratepayers of the Shire. There are no hidden agendas; the aim is to identify cost-effective solution(s) to Raymond Island access. The Council has made a genuine and public commitment to engage fully with the community and affected parties and to provide a transparent and inclusive process. The Council has no pre-conceived views as to the preferred form of access. While everyone will no doubt have an opinion on the best solution, this process is intended to work logically through an analysis of options so that final recommendations can be made based on evidence. A recommendation needs to be made to the Council by December 2011.
Q & A
The following questions were asked for clarification and answers provided by Martin or Gordon.
Q: Will the investigation consider positive economic/social benefits of options as well as cost (e.g. the tourism, cultural and social benefits of the ferry, social and other costs of alternative options)? A: Yes. Although some costs/benefits are hard to quantify, all costs and benefits, not just financial, will need to be considered. Q: Can we have comparable cost data for access to other localities, roads, bridges, etc? A: Yes, we will provide some information about the cost of providing and maintaining access to similar sized communities in the Shire. Q: Will the wider community be consulted? A: Yes. The engagement plan includes processes for ensuring that all Raymond Island residents and landowners, as well as residents of Paynesville and the wider Shire community have an opportunity to provide input. Q: If feasible short-term options for reducing the operating cost of the current ferry service are identified, will they be considered? A: Yes. If there are practical and feasible proposals for reducing current costs, these would be considered by the Shire. Q: Information on increased operating costs over time do not allow for inflation. Can this be included? A: Yes, the Shire will estimate the impact of inflation on the historical costs that have been provided and provide revised figures based on a base year. Q: How will information gathered from the investigation be circulated? A: The Access Committee will be the first point of contact. Once considered by the Committee, it will be circulated via various means (website, media release, newsletters, etc) to the wider community. Q: Why are we doing this now? A: The increasing cost of the ferry is a cause for current concern and Council needs to plan well in advance for future options given the likely long lead times for new or improved access options. Q: Can the population estimates also include some understanding itinerant and seasonal population? A: Yes, to the extent that we can make these estimates. Q: Does VicRoads provide a financial contribution towards the ferry? A: No, there has been no contribution since the one-off payment when the responsibility for the ferry was transferred.
There was much discussion about the current operating and maintenance regime for the ferry and the potential for more detailed understanding of how the ferry works, why it costs so much to run and maintain and whether there are alternative operating and maintenance options.
It was agreed that it would be useful for the Committee to have a full understanding of the operating and maintenance issues so that potential short-term solutions could be identified for cost reduction.
It was also suggested that the social impact of the ferry fees needs to be acknowledged; that is, whether fees act as a disincentive for visiting family and friends.
The group then carried out a preliminary identification of: Issues to be considered in the evaluation of options Initial identification of access options Pros and cons of each option
· Island identity · Itinerant residents · Population surge - seasonal · Restricted access o Security o Unity because of isolation · Focal point of community at ferry · Importance of interaction · Consideration of Flora/Fauna o Direct/Indirect · Current infrastructure o Roads, etc · Conservation value of the Gippsland Lakes · Use of straits for boating - minimum heights, channel clearances, etc. · Need to minimise vehicle use and encourage walking · Influence on travel routes through Paynesville · Greenhouse emissions · Impact on Pedestrian access · Aboriginal Cultural Heritage · Reliability · Hours of service · Cost of service to visitors/tradesmen · Heavy vehicle access · Emergency access · Demographics · Flooding
Raymond Island Access Committee Meeting 2 - 29 July 2011 Meeting Outcomes
1. Welcome and apologies
Present: Martin Richardson, Kate McKinnon, Jack Pearce, Glenn Williams, Peter Jones, Tom Ponting Apologies: Gordon Charles, Jack Holbrook, Brian Halpin, Ian Lewis, Fae Rosetti
- Feedback on notes of last meeting: minor corrections and additions noted
2. Information requests from previous meeting
Further breakdown of expenditure/income- Gordon to provide line item breakdown as soon as possible. It was agreed that, given the review is primarily driven by current costs, there needs to be a thorough understanding of these costs and what is impacting on them. Would also be useful to understand history of major maintenance and part replacement activities so there can be an appreciation of these impacts on cost.
Would also like information on tendering process and monitoring of existing maintenance contract.
Cost of comparable access - Gordon and Martin have agreed to provide comparable costs for access to two communities (Bemm River and Bendoc - adjusted per capita)
Info re Cowes (Isle of Wight) ferry - discussion about Cowes ferry and merit of seeking more detailed information with the operator to see if there are any opportunities to use this as a benchmark. This to be raised by Martin with Shire Executive Group and Gordon Charles. Gordon has now made initial contact. Sub-group to be included in information loop and invited to share information/views - Ian Lewis, Jack Pearce, Pater Jones
Data also has been gathered on comparable ferries in Australia - Martin to provide assistance to complete the spreadsheet.
3. Distribution of meeting notes
Agreed that meeting notes summary to be provided with the information supporting the survey. Agreed to provide an information distribution point on the ferry as well as other means already in use.
Martin provided a brief overview of recent media exposure. All agreed despite some misinterpretation, that public awareness raising had been very successful.
5. Letter to landowners and residents
Various suggestions for improvement to draft letter agreed.
- What is the purpose of a survey? It should not be perceived as a vote. - What information do we want? Various suggestions made and agreed. - How wide do we want to go? As wide as possible, so long as we can distinguish between people from different localities. - How do we get informed responses? Provide background information and ask people to rate various options not just select their preferred. - How do we get maximum responses? Refer communications plan.
7. Public meeting/workshop
- Purpose: To inform people of the survey results, provide opportunities for questions and maximise public involvement. - Format: Structured discussion with agenda, ability to record and ‘park’ grievances, ability to ask questions and get responses either on the night or later. - Letter, Shire ad, Island website, etc. - Date: Two meetings 14 & 22 September, 7pm, Raymond Island Hall.
8. Access options
- What process and criteria will we use to evaluate and compare options? Agreed to explore multi-criteria analysis so that various criteria can be weighed and varied. - Do we want an ‘independent’ expert? The Committee believes the credibility of the process requires independent expert advice on options, costs, etc.
9. Any other business
Nil. All agreed the meeting had been very productive.