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Mayors Voices: The Hon. Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor, Melbourne on the city’s award winning citizen engagement efforts

Like every other city in the world, Melbourne is facing the impacts of population growth, environmental change and financial constraints. The decisions we make now will affect our community well into the future.

These are important issues and no government is adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach to the allocation and prioritisation of resources within the context of climate change, population growth, advances in technology and a volatile global economy.

Faced with the question of how we can remain one of the world’s most liveable cities while addressing future financial challenges, the City of Melbourne took a bold decision to appoint a People’s Panel, a citizen’s jury, to help inform its 10-Year Financial Plan. This revolutionary experiment in modern democracy enlisted the help of everyday citizens to assist Council in making important decisions about spending and revenue priorities for the next decade.

A panel of 43 residents, business owners and students were randomly selected to accurately reflect the diversity of the community. Over a six-week period, more than 600 people participated in providing feedback by attending workshops, discussion groups, events and using an online budgeting tool. The panel utilised this community feedback and were also provided with open access to information and experts to assist them to deliver a set of recommendations to the Council.

As a result, the panel developed 11 recommendations. The People’s Panel recommended that as a matter of priority, the City of Melbourne allocate the necessary (increased) funding to its plans to address climate change, so as to protect our existing assets, systematically reduce our carbon footprint (pro-rata), maintain the liveability within the city and provide leadership on this issue within the municipality.

This includes recommendations for tree coverage, drainage, solar panels, vertical gardens, community and nature strip gardens, strategies for waste management and recycling and educational programs. These recommendations, if approved, will be incorporated into the city’s precinct redevelopment plans to address the climate change priorities through the regeneration of neighbourhoods throughout the city.

The panel’s recommendations were presented to Council at its meeting in November Council formally agreed to embed the People’s Panel report into the 10-Year Financial Plan. The City of Melbourne’s 10-Year Financial Plan, including the recommendations made by the People’s Panel, will be considered by Council in April 2015. In recognition of the process undertaken, Melbourne won the Victorian Local Governance Association’s John Jago Good Governance Award 2014 for its community engagement on the plan.

As lead city of the C40 Sustainable Urban Development Network, we are looking forward to further sharing our innovative approaches to citizen engagement to help other cities and their citizens tackle these important issues through C40.

To learn more about the C40 Sustainable Urban Development Network, click here.