An opportunity for supportive comment missed

By Shepparton News

We are sure the community shared our outrage when valuable BMX bikes were stolen from families in Shepparton for this week’s national championships.

It was not the welcome we want or expect for those visiting our city for an event that enhances Shepparton’s reputation for hosting major events and contributes positively to our economy.

When The News found out about this unfortunate story on Tuesday, we were keen to do what we could to help those affected and to assist police with their investigation to hopefully get the bikes back to their owners.

In our story in Wednesday’s edition, we spoke to the families who were understandably disappointed with the chain of events.

As the bikes were stolen from the Greater Shepparton City Council-owned Victoria Lake Holiday Park, The News contacted the council on Tuesday well in advance of the close of council business hours to offer them the opportunity to comment.

We thought the council may have wanted to say what, if anything, they were doing to support the impacted families or what was being done security-wise in the wake of the thefts.

But instead of commenting, we received a blunt, bland response issued by the council’s communications team saying council had no comment at all and that it was a police matter.

As one of the key voices representing the views of the community, this was a clear missed opportunity for the council.

In our view, it was a bad look and an instance where perhaps a desire to revert to procedural autopilot overruled common sense.

The News understands City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe would have commented on the situation if given the opportunity by council staff, but she was not made aware.

While we acknowledge that in the grand scheme of things, this is not a great indiscretion, it does in our view demonstrate a trend.

When opportunities for positive publicity are on the table, council is usually only too willing to oblige, with media alerts and interview and photo opportunities abounding each week.

But when it is something remotely controversial or negative, as was the case in this instance, it can be a different story.

It is something that not only the council, but other large organisations in our region with community responsibilities, have been guilty of.

In our view, being obstructive rather than transparent — and robotic rather than human — does not do organisations such as council any favours in the public eye.

It was one of those times when the council could have stood up and had their say at a time when the chips were down.

In this case, their statement, if you could call it that, was a cop out and gave the impression they did not care.

We did note no less than four people from council present at yesterday’s media opportunity at a happy occasion at the Shepparton Police Station where the bikes were returned.

We also note the fact council has decided to pay the accommodation costs for the week for the families involved.

We are pleased to hear that all six bikes have been recovered by police and returned to the families involved, in what is a great ending to an initially disappointing story.