COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTION: One of the many kitchen table discussions gathering ideas for the shire's Sustainable Visitation Strategy.
COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTION: One of the many kitchen table discussions gathering ideas for the shire's Sustainable Visitation Strategy. Contributed

OPINION: Engagement is the great gift of Byron Shire

I'VE said it before and I will say it again - we live in a completely unique and incredible shire and community. My sincerest gratitude goes out to all of you who have supported my family during our recent loss.

Unsurprisingly, it is with a refreshed perspective that I return to my work as the mayor of our shire. My motivation and enthusiasm for the job ahead remains as strong as ever. I am buoyed by the progress we are making on so many fronts and of all the exciting work in the pipeline.

I am also in awe of the way our community has been so whole-heartedly participating and having a say when council puts the call out. These are busy times and we all juggle lists of competing priorities and I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to contribute. Thank you.

Earlier this year, council invited people to join a kitchen table discussion on the future of tourism in the Byron Shire to help inform a new 10-year Sustainable Visitation Strategy. More than 1200 of you directly responded to our call and took the survey. Remarkable! You also embraced the opportunity to join our kitchen table events. Social media posts reached more than 40,000 people, and more than 5500 of you clicked through to get more information.

When we did our last Byron Shire Tourism Management Plan, more than a decade ago in 2008, consultation with the wider community was a more difficult task and may have involved a meeting or two. Much greater emphasis was given to consultation with academics and the opinions of tourism industry stakeholders.

One positive aspect of social media is that it has democratised the way organisations engage with their communities.

We now have more ways to connect directly with thousands of Byron Shire residents and digital engagement platforms like make participation more interesting and more convenient than ever.

A case in point is the new 10-year Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan and Bike Plan. More than 1100 of you took the time to complete a fairly lengthy survey online.

Many of you also committed your personal time to attend one of five design workshops held across the shire, adding more in-depth analysis and input to the outcome of these documents.

If there's one thing I've learnt in recent times it's that you can either sit around and complain about the things you don't like, or you can get involved and be part of the solution. It is humbling to be part of a community that cares enough to have a say. If you look around at other LGAs and, indeed, around the world, the levels of engagement and community connection we enjoy in the Byron Shire are a rare thing. I just want you all to know it's something, I for one, do not take for granted.

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