Message from the Mayor: 7 June 2024

Published on 07 June 2024


Well, good morning everybody, and thanks for joining the Mayor’s message for this week.

A quick apology from Mayor Connors who is unwell today. I'm Gareth Curtis, General Manager here at council and I'll be delivering the Mayor’s message for you this week while the Mayor rests up and gets well. We hope to have him back on board next week.

The last week has been an interesting one with the weather events that we've been getting, all the recent rain events. The amount of rain we’ve had is quite significant and that’s put quite a bit of pressure on some council roles. We have local emergency management staff, we have our road crews, and we have our communications people, and the Mayor did want to extend thanks to all of them, as do I, for their efforts during the last week. Particularly last weekend, when we had a number of bridges closed across the shire and several patrols out checking those bridges quite often to find out what their status was. Please bear with us because those updates cannot be immediate. It takes time for staff to get around the shire. It's a large shire, there are a lot of roads and a lot of bridges and it does take a while to get around and to them all and then get condition assessments back through to the emergency management staff, which then forward them on to the communications team, so bear with us. We do the best we can.

I just want to extend thanks out to the staff as well and we thank everyone for their patience while those bridges were closed. They did reopen pretty quickly when rain levels subsided. And that's a good segue into our Fixing Country Bridges Program which is one of the more successful programs of delivery that council has had in many years. The announcement of the Fixing Country Bridges was made a couple of years ago in Dungog Shire at Saxby’s Bridge where the government promised to fund 23 bridges. We were given a very strict timeframe to work within, with all bridges to be trafficable by April 2024. Council delivered those bridges which is an excellent achievement from a very small council. The government did have some concerns across the state because they effectively flooded the market with grant funds. All the registered bridge builders were soaked up into building those bridges which made it difficult to deliver. So all the more achievement for the council in getting those bridges complete, well done!

The issue with the recent weather has shown how great those bridges are. Where in the past we would have had bridges probably closed a little bit longer due to the old timber bridges. Now, with the new concrete structures, once the water subsides and they have been assessed, they can be reopened much more quickly. So that is going to save us a lot more in maintenance over the life of those structures. It's just such a great outcome for our community across the shire. So thanks again to all those crews and staff.

This week the Mayor and I went down to the International Public Works Engineers Association Roads Congress held at Parliament House in Sydney.  It’s a really important place to hold these things because it gives access to the politicians who make the decisions about where the funding goes. As our residents would be aware, Dungog Shire Council is heavily reliant on grant funds. So it was great to see the Mayor networking with the Minister for Regional Transport & Roads, Jenny Aitchison. She's an excellent Regional Transport and Roads Minister who has been very helpful for council in terms of our funding. So it was good to see the Mayor talking to her over lunch there at Parliament House.

Following the panel discussion, the Mayor and I also met with senior executives from TfNSW who are also instrumental in making sure that funding is delivered in a timely manner. As residents would know, we do have some concerns over the timeframes that we are receiving our funding. We are still waiting on our Betterment Funding deed which relates to the Gresford Suspension Bridge and the Hooke Street culverts and we again are pressing those issues at a very high level. We just have to watch this space because there are multiple state and federal agencies involved in delivering these funds to council. So we are keeping the pressure up and it was great to see the Mayor doing what he does best and getting out there and making sure that these Ministers and high-level executives are held accountable. So watch this space because I'm looking forward to getting that funding deed.

The Roads Congress was also an excellent opportunity to find out more about what the government is doing in terms of road safety. The national road toll is just extraordinary this year, it's well above previous years. As you know, Dungog Shire Council has been promoting road safety. We've participated in road safety programs, the Mayor has taken a road safety pledge as you would know, and it was great to see the government is looking into the reasons why people speed, why people continue to drive unsafely through roadworks, and why people continue to use their mobile phones while they drive. They're trying to do behavioral research so that we can work out what we need to address and how we can get messages through to people so that we can reduce that road toll and people can get home safely to their families. It's always a good thing because we do have a lot of roads in the shire and we do have incidents from time to time, and we do participate in these government programs. So it's really good to hear the government's doing that and we look forward to participating in delivering that educational message once they've gotten to that point.

We were also really pleased to see there's a bit of work going on across the industry, the local government industry, in the engineering sector in relation to electric vehicle charging infrastructure. We have a meeting later today with Dungog Regional Tourism to talk about electric vehicles and potential charging points across our shire. To encourage visitors is the primary aim at this stage but later, where we would put charging infrastructure for the general community as well. So it was good to hear from Lockhart Shire Council, a very small council in western NSW, where they are streets ahead (pardon the pun) of many other councils across the state in delivering electric vehicle charging infrastructure for their community. And it goes to show that being small can be great so we're really looking forward to seeing what Lockhart Council has delivered and how that could roll out in our area as well at minimal cost, of course.

So I think the Roads Congress was definitely the highlight of this week.

And I think that's pretty much the message that the Mayor wanted to deliver to you this week. He wishes you a happy and safe weekend and to drive safely on our roads, particularly with the rain continuing. So thanks for joining me. We hope to have the Mayor back next week. Bye


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