Message from the Mayor: 17 May 2024

Published on 17 May 2024


Hello, I'm John Connors, the Mayor of the Dungog shire bringing you this week's Mayoral message.

Wednesday night last was Council’s monthly meeting. This meeting had on the agenda amongst other things, the Draft Budget and Operational Plan. Council resolved to put the draft on public exhibition for a period of 28 days, which it’s obliged to do. So the documents are on exhibition and available on Council's website.

I encourage everybody to have a look, even though it's a somewhat laborious document but have a look at it, and if you have any comments, please make them within the 28 Day timeframe so that they can be considered by Council when it ultimately adopts the Budget before the 30th of June.

In the budget for the first time in some years, you will see regrettably that there is an ultimate deficit, a deficit of $450,000. This arose primarily because of the need to allow funding to engage consultants to fill the roles that we have been unable to fill particularly in the planning area where we need specific people to do the Clarence Town Structure Plan and finish off the Rural Land Strategy. In these instances, we need a Strategic Planner and we've been unable to recruit to date, we keep trying and if we do, then that will be at a much lesser cost than if we have to use consultants. Similarly, we've had to use consultants in the planning area to ensure that there's no blowout in the processing time of development applications. In particular, we've had to use consulting services for development engineering. So that's the reason but we hope that throughout the year, things will work out in our favour, and at the end of the year, it will be a balanced budget and that's the goal.

Roadworks continue, although they’ve been delayed as a result of the weather, but they will continue when the roads dry out, in Queen St in Clarence Town, in Durham Rd to the top of the hill at East Gresford, and of course Stroud Hill. So those works will be going on for a little while, although I understand Queen St in Clarence Town is nearing completion, providing there's a period of fine weather.

On Monday and throughout next week I will be conducting ‘Meet the Mayor’ sessions throughout the shire. Each of the sessions will be from 4pm to 6pm. On Monday will be at the Dungog Council Chambers, Tuesday at the Beatty Hotel at East Gresford, Wednesday at the General Store at Vacy, Thursday at Tucker Park in Paterson, and Friday at the School of Arts at Clarence Town.

I know access to Tucker Park is very restricted at the moment with the roadworks, but King Street & Queen Street are accessible and you can gain access to the parking area adjacent to the picnic shoulder. So utilise that access or alternatively walk down through the park from the main road.

So I look forward to seeing as many people as possible during next week and of course, I will also be in Dungog Council Chambers from 9.30am to 1pm on Monday morning.

Last week, the General Manager and I were in Sydney for two conferences. One was the Rural & Regional Summit organised by Local Government NSW and the other was a meeting of the 98 Country Mayors throughout NSW. Both of those forums were focused on the sustainability of local government or, more correctly, the lack of sustainability of local government unless the funding models are changed.

We heard from various speakers, from the Minister for Local Government, the Premier the Auditor General's Office, the head of iPart, and the like. The theme in all instances was the funding model is severely broken and needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, the Federal Budget on Tuesday night did nothing to assist. There had been lobbying for some time by the Australian Local Government Association to have the Federal Assistance Grants put back to where they were initially and that is 1% of taxation revenue passing to Local Governments throughout Australia. That's now been significantly eroded over time to the point where it's grossly inadequate, but unfortunately, the lobbying has been unsuccessful and it has not gone back to 1% of taxation revenue. So we're left where we are, and we're left with the State Budget yet to come but all the predictions are very favorable either. So I think there'll be tough times to come.

But having said that, the draft budget that we have adopted to put out an exhibition contains a proposed capital expenditure of $36 million. So that's capital expenditure dominantly on roads, the bridges are now complete. So that's dominantly roads throughout the shire. That expenditure will diminish significantly in future years, however, unless something is done to fix the funding model.

So with that news, I think that's it from me for this week. So until next week, good luck and goodbye and I hope to see many of you during the week.

Tagged as: