Monday, September 20, 2010

Polling the neighbourhood, Friendship Street.

Well, here are the results you have all been waiting for.

Friendship Street lived up to it's name and all of the residents approached answered the questions I had for them. Only two of the houses did not have anyone home and while I did go back twice more to try again I had no luck.

Let me start by saying that I had some pre-conceived notions on what the responses would be and I was completely wrong on some and absolutely correct on others (but I am not telling you which....). I also need to add that while I did not exactly ask the question, when I told the residents I represented a blog some of them asked if that was some sort of 'computer thing' and most told me they didn't have a computer in the house. That made me wonder if I am actually superfluous to the needs of my area and am effectively ineffective in the way I communicate with them. What it did point out, was that the tried and true method of 'door-knocking' is actually the best way to find out what people are really thinking so I am very glad I decided to take my queries to the street.

One of the questions I asked was regarding the Sugarworld Upgrade. I asked if they had seen the options available and if they had chosen one. Nearly all had seen them, not via the internet of course, but in The Cairns Post. They all wanted option 2 but most had not officially had a say via the survey that was in the paper. It appears that The Cairns Post was the vehicle by which all information regarding local issues was monitored. I have questioned in the past the poor efforts by those in charge of community consultation and engagement on this issue and it appears that these concerns were proven true. If the survey was available to be returned via a phone call, more residents would have responded already. Why could there not have been a simple phone line similar to those used by reality shows where you simply vote 1,2 or 3? The need for a detailed answer is surely superfluous to requirements?

As for the Cultural Precinct, the dollar value of the project was the primary concern although all agreed that it was time for a major update of current facilities. School events, such as the Eisteddfod and Awards Nights, and large concerts were the main reasons residents would use this venue although a couple stated that they would not attend anything at all.

The alternative with the football stadium and the smaller precinct were sneered at as the residents felt there was not enough support for such an ambitious project. It was felt, however, that the current sporting arenas could be improved to allow for larger football events and with the Pride doing well, crowds are likely to increase (though they felt it would probably not get close to 20'000).

The city is not somewhere the residents of Friendship Street frequent. They very rarely head in there at night. One said they go to the Esplanade sometimes but the rest claimed to never visit the area unless it's for work. The city needs a re-paint and some colour injected into it as it's dull and boring at the moment and offers no incentives for locals to venture into town.

Every single one of the people questioned want an increased police presence. There is an apparent 'hoon' issue in the street that is not being dealt with and they have had their cars broken into, or know someone nearby who has. Law and order was a real concern and they all felt that the local Neighbourhood Watch program needed to be more pro-active and work in concert with the police to make sure the neighbourhood was effectively monitored.

I asked each resident what they would do with $50 if I gave it to them and almost all stated they would go out for dinner. One said they would use it on bills and one said they would spoil the kids with it. Take note restaurants of Cairns, they want affordable, child-friendly restaurants with great food. Preferably NOT pubs, they have enough of those. If there was something on the south side of town, at least 20 people I know of would go.

The final question I asked was 'Are you happy with the way your local Councillor is dealing with the issues in your area and do you know who they are?'.......and the answer? Nobody thought the local councillor was effective enough but much more surprising than that was the response to the second part of the question. Every single resident answered 'No'. Not one single person in this street knew who was representing them in Council. In fact, one resident asked me if it was Curtis Pitt!

What does all of this say about the south side of Cairns? Not much. The information gathered thus far is from one street only and can't really be said to give a true opinion of the entire area. There were some interesting early trends that I will be watching closely to see if they continue, such as the lack of information gathered via the Internet and the lack of knowledge regarding the local Councillor. Beyond that, the need for a suitable family restaurant on this side of town will be further noted and the call for increased police presence will also be taken into account. The Sugarworld surveys should always have been made available via print, internet and phone methods so I will learn nothing new as I continue with this project on that subject and the Cultural Precinct will still feature in the questions asked.

To the residents of Friendship Street I say thankyou. You welcomed me into your lives for a few minutes and gave me all of the answers so that I could have a better idea about what you really want and need. That was the purpose of this, and without your co-operation I would have failed. I met some wonderful people during the week I spent in your street.

Next week I am off to the back of Edmonton to ask the residents of Meranti Street. I chose this one because the 5 cent coin landed on it when I opened the map of Edmonton. Not very scientific I know, but nonetheless, that's what I am doing.

See you next Monday for the results.

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