Manly Council chose a weekend in the middle of summer to start upgrading works on Rialto Lane in the heart of Manly CBD.
And they didn’t warn anyone - not affected shop owners, not the residents at Peninsula Apartments who couldn’t get their cars out of their own garage, and not Coles supermarket who had no access to their loading dock at one of the busiest weekends of the year!
The result was a traffic nightmare with Coles delivery trucks backing in and out of the narrow laneway at the same time as tourists and locals with small kids were crossing the lane behind them.
“It was unbelievable,” said Peninsula resident Brian Fitzgerald, who spoke at Manly council meeting this week.
“On Friday they just came along, blocked off the road and started work. No one was notified at all.”
Mr Fitzgerald said that residents’ only notification of the work was a public notice on a wall near the laneway. The notice gave a council email as the contact point for more information, but when residents emailed they got no reply. When they called the council, they were told no one knew about the project and they had to call the architect. They did, and were given some information, but not about when work would start on the site, or how they would be affected by it. This is despite the project being under Manly Council’s control, as part of their public works plan.
Good For Manly Councillor Candy Bingham used the Rialto experience to call for a review of the council’s notification and communication processes, in a motion at the meeting.
“We do excellent work with our civic works projects,” Cr Bingham said. “But we let ourselves down with the communication side, time and time again.
“Rialto Lane is not an isolated incident," she said. "There’s LM Graham Reserve, Forty Baskets Beach, Kenneth Road… It keeps happening.
“People are not against civic works. They just want to know in advance so they can prepare and work around it. And just telling them work will go ahead at some point is not good enough. We need to tell them when it’s starting, and what exactly is going to happen. Clearly this was not done for Rialto Lane.”
Major Jean Hay said that although things could have handled better in this case, responsible officer Deputy GM Beth Lawson was on leave at the time work started on Friday Jan 8. She said that when Ms Lawson returned to work the following Tuesday she immediately contacted affected businesses and residents, and apologised for any problems.
Cr Hay denied there was a systemic problem with the council’s communication processes.
But the motion to hold an internal review of the council’s communication procedures was eventually passed, with a report to be brought back to councillors on how the process can be improved.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.