Opinion

Time council steps in over Shepparton Education Plan

By Shepparton News

What do you do when your side-entry gutter drainage pit is obviously blocked after heavy rain? You ring the easily-accessed council — it’s their core business to remedy your specific local problem.

Should the council get involved in matters that are clearly not their ‘‘core’’ business — you know things like such vitally important subjects like river banks slumping into the stream because banks are excessively subjected to unnaturally heavy flows, water management problems, railway services and even social issues like same-sex matrimony?

Of course they should — it’s called community advocacy.

Now there’s a red hot local controversy raging in the council’s geographic bailiwick as you read this.

The implementation of a long-needed Greater Shepparton Education Plan, proposing the amalgamation of our four public government Years 7-12 schools onto one single site, has divided the community — with those who are interested basically polarised, yea versus nay, with few, very few, in the middle.

Me? While acknowledging perhaps that some ‘‘selling’’ of the project, in retrospect, may have been done better, and some aspects can’t be properly addressed until the physical progress unfolds, I’m definitely in favour.

We’re ashamedly harbouring a not-so-great performance record in state secondary performance and, as some wise person once observed, ‘‘By changing nothing, nothing changes’’.

As a vibrant and caring community we just can’t afford the missed opportunity and our council needs to step right into the ring to attain the best outcomes for our youngsters — not only the current broad cohort, as they saddle up for the exciting transition period, but for all those generations following in their footsteps. The benefits flow right through the progress of Greater Shepparton.

Can we impose on our nine elected councillors to facilitate their best resources to play an enterprising and entrepreneurial role in getting this proposal over the line — with the least hassle.

American author Deepak Chopra astutely observed, ‘‘All great changes are preceded by chaos’’. Applicable here? Spot on — fits like a glove.

●You’ve singled out the council for help, I hear you claim, what all the others — hitherto conspicuous by their silence? Fair call.

Guess you mean the businesses, industries, service clubs, instrumentalities, retailers, professionals, charities, churches, sporting bodies, other education institutions — all those directly or indirectly beneficiaries of better all-round educated young adults.

Well yes — more deathly silence pervades. Yes, there’ll be heaps of excuses.

First one runs like this, ‘‘My kids have grown up — grandkids go to a private school. It doesn’t affect me’’. Reply? ‘‘Do you favour living in an increasingly better-educated community?’’ No further questions, M’lud.

Perhaps you are keen seeing the city’s economy growing. What about the building expenditure of something in the order of $200million? Can you see extended benefits?

Opportunities for redundant buildings at the three closing sites? Perhaps sports stadiums, extended TAFE and university campuses, special educational accommodation or youth hostels. You name it.

How do we rank-n-filers help? Find out more about the plans. Talk about it, socially or in your workplace. Write to the newspaper. Just hook in and objectively weigh the pros and cons.

We definitely can’t afford to forgo this great opportunity for generations to come. Enhance the plan for sure — abandon it and regret it for ever.

●How many times do we hear or read the gripe, ‘‘The blooming council — they never listen to us!’’? If you jump on to social media on a local issue nearly every second comment includes some variation of that theme.

State and federal pollies, especially those in government cop it in volumes too.

On most occasions ‘‘never listen to us’’ loosely translates in reality to ‘‘council doesn’t do what I say’’.

How does Greater Shepparton City Council, which has something like 45000 to 46000 voters on the roll, for example, satisfy all constituents’ requests on a single issue — say hard rubbish collection?

Of course they can’t — it simply can’t be done.

Wish someone would discover the means to get the message across that as we elect our councillors to make decisions on our behalf — for better or for worse we should accept those decisions at least until the next election.

Listening to 45000 opinions can be tedious, you’ll agree.

Shepparton’s John Gray has vast experience in local government, urban water reform and natural resource management.