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By: Jon Langevad

What happens when a local Government becomes introverted on itself and is so concerned with the management of minutia that not only does the ‘big picture’ get shuffled aside, but the future of a municipality becomes hostage to spotlight seeking vocal minorities who even further divert good people from strategic planning to managing minority imposed day to day crises?  And, like any dysfunction causing attention to be held captive, the more it continues the more people shrink inside self imposed boundaries and their new norms become more and more subjugated to real strategic requirements.

Everyone at times prefers to think in minutia terms because it’s a way of stabilising the mind but we all don’t actively try to get everyone else to do the same.  The minutia set do and this ‘small minded government malfeasance’ rises from the bottom up and infects all levels including the CEO.

Every council has good people who plan their socks off but their plans fail to make it to reality because, senior staff are so bound up with minority groups and top down micro management that they lose sight of creating greatness and a municipality leaping into the future with people who rise above the everyday – as the norm.

Creating this is the role of the CEO and unfortunately that role is often occupied by traditional thinking small Government people who think and act as Governments believe they have to.  The expression, ‘Government moves slowly’ is brain sappingly wrong and diverts morale to an introverted view of the world. Governments do not move slowly, people do.  These slow moving people are the ‘minutia set’ who feel at home analysing every detail before they can move on.  We need these people to survive the information pot pouri but we also need those who can think strategically and make it happen.

A perfect example of senior management failure is the ‘Urban Design Framework’ [UDF] for the Tourist area of Beach Street and Waterfront Place area of Port Melbourne and the fight between the Port Phillip Council, the Port of Melbourne and the State Government. To my knowledge this UDF has been around for at least 14 years with no positive outcome.  The planners have done their job but senior management have failed to create the framework from which plans can turn into reality.

Each stakeholder has vested interests whilst Melbourne suffers the ignominy of our sea gateway to the world being a third world complex held back from development by the minutia set who seem to be spending their time committed to allocating resources to deciding whether or not a bike path needs to be dobbed with bright green paint or issuing resident parking permits or rebuilding a toilet block.

In the UDF’s case it is the CEO who should have taken responsibility but has failed to achieve little positive and long term for Port Melbourne and as a consequence Melbourne.  All CEO incumbents have chosen instead to commit the council to endless conciliation meetings which everyone knows achieves nothing.  The work completed on Princes Pier is a disgrace to Melbourne, Port Melbourne, future planning, style and most certainly does not produce an “I want to be there” moment.  Likewise, Station Pier and surrounds have been hijacked by the Port of Melbourne commercial interests and the area suffers the ignominy of irrelevance and distaste.

Tourism is ignored.

Clearly the role of Port Phillip’s CEO is to work with Port of Melbourne, State Government, residents and tourist groups, art groups, event groups and anyone and everyone else who can further the future of the city.

Unfortunately, judging on a past lack of creative ability and controlled change leading to action, there has been a significant level of malfeasance at senior levels.  The triangle site and St Kilda Sea bathes are but two further examples where huge amounts of money have been wasted on bad planning, bad management and indeed bad execution.  These are critical tourist / destination visitor sites for all of Melbourne and deserve better.

Hope, in this case, involves recreating the role of CEO at Port Phillip to engender strategic thinking and the taking of responsibility for building something fantastic for the next umpteen generations of both residents and tourists.

The new CEO needs to lead from a strategic view backed up by senior management then the minutia set can run the day to day aspects of the city within the framework set by the CEO whilst he or she develops with the key stakeholders a grand plan for our future bayside city – and implements it!!

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