After only seven people attended a Tingha forward planning meeting organised by Armidale Regional Council (ARC), residents are expressing frustration about the manner of communication between their new council and the community.
Tingha Citizen’s Association chairwoman Colleen Graham said only a handful of people had been informed about the Tuesday council-organised pop-up stall in the town’s main street and workshop at Tingha Town Hall, designed to gather Tingha’s thoughts on town need.
“There was nothing,” Colleen said.
She was perplexed why no advertisement was placed in The Inverell Times about the visit of the event presenters from a Sydney consulting firm, contracted by ARC, or why the council did not adhere to the letterbox drop, which she said had proved historically successful within Tingha.
Colleen said the only notification some received was via email, and felt that method proved how out of touch ARC was with the realities of Tingha’s unpredictable internet and wireless access, and the number of households with computers.
“(My husband) and I did a calculation, and there are probably within the vicinity of our home, there would be six people that don’t even have a computer in their home,” she said.
Tingha resident of 49-years, Jenny Hayden, attended the workshop, and felt the event was a step toward a beginning, but disappointed more people were not given the opportunity through notification, to attend.
She said attendees pointed out to the presenters the assembly was a thin representation of the Tingha community.
“Because, most of us, barring one or two, were over 70, of the seven that attended,” she said. She felt there was a palpable feeling of disappointment from visitors.
“I think they were let down that there wasn’t proper advertising done,” she said.
“They were certainly nice people, and understood the quandary everybody was in, as that they didn’t know about it.”
Colleen and her husband Bernie met with the presenters after the workshop and said they were positive and pleasant, but felt the event could not represent the range of Tingha’s views and needs.
“The guy said, ‘But at least it’s a start,” Colleen said.
“I said, ‘How can it be a start when no one knows about it?’”
Armidale Regional Council replied in a statement the pop-up stall had 20 youth and 10 adult participants.
“The community was notified of the engagement activities by general email distribution, local commitment was sought to display posters in the newsagent and for the information to be distributed in the ‘Buzz’,” the council statement read.
“A media release was circulated to Council’s media outlets in the week leading up to the workshop.
“Council was pleased with the level of community participation at the pop up stall in the afternoon and we acknowledge that the numbers were low for the evening’s community workshop. Nevertheless Council was able to obtain great feedback from those that were present.
“It should also be recognised that this phase one of the engagement strategy, and there will be opportunities over the next three months for Council to check back in with the Tingha community.”
-This article was updated in regards to the response from ARC after print publication.