CLARENCE Valley Deputy Mayor Craig Howe.
CLARENCE Valley Deputy Mayor Craig Howe.

Facing up to technology

CLARENCE Valley Council has "dipped its toes into the water" of social networking and it appears a swim is imminent.

Details of the council's upcoming budget, including a $50 million capital works program (part of the draft 2012/13 Operational Plan), were posted on the Facebook group Clarence Valley Ratepayers, Businesses and Residents this week with encouraging results.

Last night there were at least 54 comments on nine itemised posts put up by Deputy Mayor Craig Howe.

Cr Howe has been a member of the group since its creation by Clarence Valley Youth Initiative chair Ursula Tunks last year and he has had his fair share of barbs from the volumes of robust debate ever since.

Mayor Richie Williamson said Cr Howe's latest posts were part of a deliberate consultation strategy voted upon at the last Civil and Corporate Committee meeting.

"Facebook has proven an effective tool for communicating with the public," Cr Williamson said.

He said there were many more submissions made via Facebook regarding the Clarenza cycleway than traditional methods.

"We acknowledge that not everyone is on Facebook and not everyone is on a computer," he said. "But this has been a successful trial."

He said other councils in Gunnedah, Armidale and Guyra had used Facebook successfully.

Cr Howe acknowledged that people had sometimes been quite abrasive with him on the site, but said it often served to defuse situations.

He said he had reported at least a dozen items to council staff from the group and, though not all problems had been resolved, all had received some attention.

He encouraged people to sign up to the group and make comments on the Operation Plan during the consultation phase.

Issues generating the most comments included the new waste service plan and capital works in Yamba, Iluka and Grafton.

Council is considering launching its own Facebook page, but Cr Howe said he preferred the ratepayer-generated structure.

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