Message from the Mayor: 12 May 2023

Published on 12 May 2023

Hello, I'm John Connors, the mayor of the Dungog Shire bringing you this week's mayoral message.  

This week, of course, was the federal budget, a federal budget that wasn't very kind to local government, be it local government in the country or local government in the city. One of the critical federal funding measures has been the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure grants, a grant system where an amount of money was allocated to each federal electorate and then from that an amount allocated to each local government area. They were fixed amounts determined by a formula, not discretionary. But it was discretionary as to how those funds were allocated within local government areas, and there was a significant discretion on that between the Council and the Federal Member.  

They are grants that this Council has been very reliant on in recent years and they've gone to enable things like the library in Dungog where to significant components from the LRCI grants, enabled that to be built. The sporting facility and the infrastructure at East Gresford, again, that was a significant beneficiary from LRCI grants and Clarence Town. So, to lose those grants over time will be a great loss to local governments throughout Australia, not only NSW. The government has indicated they're going to phase it out and drop it. It's currently $500m per annum. It's going to drop initially to $350m, then $250m per annum and then it will end in 2025/26.  

Despite the prospect of loss of that grant facility. The other major Commonwealth contribution is the Financial Assistance Grants, which again work on a formula and aren’t used or can't be used, as some would describe as pork-barrelling. Those grants started life many years ago was 1% of the federal tax revenue. They've now dropped to half of that and lobbying by the Australian Local Government Association was unsuccessful in having them restored 1%. So the dominant federal grant funding has not worked to the benefit of local government in this budget.  

There will, it’s said, still be other grant structures such as Road to Recovery, and the local roads grants and bridge renewal program. In those programs, the funding is even more discretionary and it's not increasing and therefore effectively decreasing over time.  

Still staying with the budget, the one item of great concern for Council is whether the federal funding, which is a significant part of the funding for the Brig O’Johnston Bridge at Clarence Town will be maintained and not only maintained but there's currently an application for an additional $5m to facilitate the construction of that bridge. An additional $5m because of the escalation in prices over the period of time it's taken to get the various concurrences. There has been no confirmation since the budget that that money is secure, but it's understood that there will be information very shortly, and we can only hope that that information is positive, because that bridge is critical to the growth of the shire and the growth of Clarence Town as all major, larger residential blocks are on the other side of the bridge. 

Moving on to something a little more happier, with the renovations to the library being completed and the library reopening, the library has recommenced Story Time. Story Time is held each Wednesday at 10:30am. The first of the year was held this week and I'm told that it was very successful. It's a great space and a great facility in which for Story Time to be held. So, remember, and bring your children along 10:30am, it's free, at the Dungog Library each Wednesday. 

Wednesday of next week sees the monthly Council Meeting at 6pm at the Council Chambers in Dungog and it's streamed live on Facebook if you wish to participate. This month, whilst at the time of me speaking to you the agenda has not yet come out, but I understand there will be some significant planning matters on the agenda and also some issues with respect to progressing road funding throughout the shire. So, matters of interest for everyone to watch. 

So, I think that's it for me for this week. So until next week, good luck and goodbye. 

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