Message from the Mayor: 22 March, 2024

Published on 22 March 2024


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

Council and all councils in NSW were invited to make submissions to a proposed iPART inquiry into local government finance and local government funding. We put a significant effort into the submission, particularly concerning the guidelines which we considered to be too narrow and weren't intended to consider how Councils were funded, rather, looking at what they did with that funding once they received it.

The submission was lodged, and then on the 19th of March, I received a letter from iPART, indicating that they’d received a letter from the government the same day, withdrawing the reference to them. Instead of referring the matter to iPART, the government has now decided to have an upper house parliamentary inquiry into local government finance.

That committee has been established and it's said that all submissions through iPart will be considered by that inquiry, however Council will utilise even more resources now to adapt the submission to the terms of reference of the parliamentary inquiry.

It's very disappointing that the committee that's conducting the inquiry doesn't appear to have parliamentarians with prior local government experience. It’s chaired by the government's newest member of the upper house, with one national party, one Liberal Party, and a couple of other members together with the government members.

I hope the inquiry broadens its reach. I hope the inquiry looks at local government funding from the top and not merely the bottom because it's the top that needs to be looked at and remedied. It's incredibly unfair and unreliable. Council doesn't know from year to year what it might end up with. It knows basically what it's going to have but not what it needs to do and deliver the necessary works for the shire.

I know I've mentioned it before, but things like the Block Grant Funding, as it applies to say Clarence Town Road, we receive about $10,000 per km for maintenance, while Port Stephens Council receive almost $18,000 per km to maintain their section of the same road. The same also applies with Dungog Rd where it joins Maitland City Council, we again receive about $10,000 while Maitland City Council receives about $18,000 per km. How that can be justified on an equity basis is beyond me. They're the sorts of things that need to be properly considered, rather than some analysis of how Councils, I'm sure it's directed at some city councils, are inappropriately spending the money they have received. We live in hope.

To the roads, work on Durham Road will continue and it’s anticipated that the road will be sealed on Wednesday of next week. That work will continue over the weekend to complete the concrete works associated with driveways along the road. So all going well, it'll be sealed on Wednesday well in time for the activities at East Gresford, for the Billy Cart Derby on the Easter long weekend.

Queen St in Clarence Town receives its long-awaited remediation and those works will continue for a little while and the road will be closed and detours in place until the works are complete. The intersection of Mary Street and Dowling Street in Dungog, those works are continuing and again detours are in place until those works are completed.

This week we held Council's March meeting, at which the long-awaited Cultural Plan was adopted by Council. That plan now forms part of Council's portfolio and is there for organisations to rely on who may wish to seek grants for cultural or artistic activities within the shire.

Easter is coming and Easter traditionally brings many visitors to the Dungog shire, visitors to the forests and National Park, and the villages throughout the shire. The Billy Cart Derby at East Gresford is a major attractor on Saturday during the day and on Saturday night, the Dungog Rodeo at the Dungog Showground. I think last year there were more than 6000 people in attendance and there's no reason why there shouldn't be a similar crowd this year if the weather is favorable.

We look forward to Easter and the break, you won't be hearing from me next week, so until the week after Easter, goodbye and good luck.


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