Throughout Australia in the lead up to or after local government reform, there has been much concern within communities that their local identity will be or has been lost.

What do we mean by ‘local identity’?
‘Local identity’ can to some extent be considered a collective geographical group who have a defined sense of place (heritage, socio-economic structures, social cohesion and connection, landscape etc) that the individual can identify with or distinguish itself from. It some post-amalgamation reports ‘local identity’ has also been used in regards to the difficulty in accessing and maintaining local community services.

Prior to the current ‘proposed’ NSW local government amalgamations, many other state governments had previously undertaken large scale reform resulting in both amalgamation and de-amalgamation.

What reasons have state governments given to warrant amalgamation?

  • Big is better
  • Its all about efficiency
  • Financial stability

Never a mention of ‘local identity’. In a glocal world, is local identity and a sense of place important? Strengthening and celebrating local identity is important on many levels:

  • An individual’s sense of belonging to a community
  • An individual’s sense of local pride
  • Differentiating one place from another
  • A catalyst for investment attraction, population and economy growth and tourism development.

How can we strengthen and maintain local identity?
In our experience, developing a Place Plan with the community has been invaluable to articulating (sometimes even establishing!) what is the local identity. The place planning process enables strategies and tactics to be identified which assist in maintaining and enhancing the sense of place.

What is a Place Plan?
A Place Plan identifies the key stakeholders, opportunities and constraints of towns and the actions that may be implemented. It identifies and prioritises short and long term opportunities. The objective is to work together in creating ‘places’ that provide economic, social and cultural nourishment for the people who live, work and visit them.

Place planning recognises the knowledge and strengths of local communities, aims to build community capacity and brings together key organisations, business and residents in planning and delivering desired outcomes.

It is a proactive process integrating social, environmental, physical and economic development to provide both short and longer term direction

Objectives of a Place Plan
The intent of a Place Plan is to create a place of meaning and connection for residents, business owners and visitors. The overarching objectives are not always identical, but broadly full under:

  • strengthening the civic, cultural and brand identity
  • improve the public realm and amenity
  • identify and meet the needs and aspirations of the community now and in the future
  • enhance the environmental, social and cultural sustainability of the place
  • retain and attract businesses and residents
  • improve engagement and confidence between Council, residents and businesses

 How does a Place Plan fit in with other Council Plans?Place Plan Image

The Plan Plan should be at the very core of Council’s vision and operations.

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We shape our public spaces, thereafter our public spaces shape us.

–adapted from Winston Churchill