Community survey price tag defended

GAUGING COMMUNITY VIEW: Mount Gambier Mayor Andrew Lee.

MAYOR Andrew Lee has defended the $65,000 budget allocation for a survey to gauge community support for the proposed $40m Mount Gambier Regional Sport and Recreation Centre.

Mount Gambier City Council resolved at a meeting last week to conduct an elector survey about the proposed facility after local government elections in November.

“This proposal is the largest single infrastructure project in the city’s history and it has always been council’s intention to conduct an extensive engagement process to identify the level of support or otherwise once all the facts and costings are available to ensure the community is able to make an informed decision,” Mr Lee said.

The survey will be distributed to 19,270 people on the electoral roll – including both ratepayers and non-ratepayers.

To do this independently, council has endorsed the estimated budget from the 2018/19 forecast operating surplus to engage external specialist support to conduct the survey.

“Council must gauge community opinion through a formal and credible process,” Mr Lee said.

“It is not as simple as asking a question or conducting a poll on a social media website like Facebook which anyone could respond to, or even using an email program like Survey Monkey, which also has limitations as not all electors have an email address.”

“We are also unable to conduct the survey as part of the November election run by the Electoral Commission as the notices have already been issued.

“Council is currently developing plans, documentation and analysis on the project and therefore did not have the information available in time for Electoral Commission lead times.”

The survey will be mailed out individually to each elector’s home address.

“The cost estimate of $65,000 includes the design, the need to include barcoding on each survey to track authenticity, postage costs and then provision for responses to be scanned, comments analysed and for the report to be written,” Mr Lee said.

He added it was vital to engage a professional company to administer the survey to ensure the process is independent when the results are collated and released.

“It is important community feedback is sought by an independent expert in data collection to ensure the professional integrity of the information,” he said.

Consistent with council’s caretaker policy, the survey will be conducted after the November elections when council is no longer restricted by the caretaker period.

“During an election, the council moves into a caretaker period to avoid actions and decisions which could be perceived as intended to influence voters or otherwise have a significant impact on the incoming council,” Mr Lee said.

“In the meantime, council continues to develop concept plans, documentation, financial analysis and cost estimates to inform the community about the operating costs of the proposed project.

“The wording and content of the community survey questions will not be finalised until council is satisfied sufficient information has been obtained to create an appropriate survey and the community has been further informed about the proposal.”