Message from the Mayor: 17 March 2023

Published on 17 March 2023

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

Council had its March ordinary meeting on Wednesday night of this week. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be present as I was quite unexpectedly hospitalised on Tuesday afternoon, and regrettably missed the meeting.  

Perhaps, the most dominant thing on the agenda of Wednesday night's meeting was an application made by a company to regularise its activities at Hildale. The activities have been carried on for some time without any approval, and therefore, at the moment, unlawful. The application came before Council with a recommendation from the staff. The decision of the Council was to defer the matter without making any decision. So, the operation will continue in its unapproved state for the moment.  

Following on that same theme, there is a tendency within the shire for people to carry out development without getting approval, and then when there's a complaint to Council and they're approached by Council officers, they then seek to lodge a development application to regularise the activities that they're carrying on on their land. This is quite inappropriate. The legislation very specifically says that you must apply and get consent to carry out development prior to the development commencing.  

I encourage all people within the Shire who intend to change the land use of their property or whatever it is, that they approach Council, have a discussion with Council’s planners, and then lodge the necessary application and get approval, prior to commencing the new land use. It's a very, relatively, simple process in most instances. In some instances, for more serious developments, it's quite major process. But in any event, it's an easier process if it's done before the activity is commenced rather than after the activity has been commenced contrary to the legislation.  

On a brighter note, the week saw the release of the new land valuations for Dungog Shire, which show a very significant increase in land values, an increase of 135.7% from the previous valuations. This is good news for land holders, and it will NOT have a flow-on effect to rates. I know there's always a fear that if the land value goes up, then the rates will go up. Well, that's not the case. The rate pegging legislation is in place and the increase in rates is only that that's allowed by IPART on an annual basis. It will not be anything like 135.7% within Dungog Shire. The rate increases currently fixed by this special rate variation, which still has another 12 months to run. In other areas of the state, in most instances last year, was an increase of 2.5%.  

The works crews continue to work on the roads throughout the shire and will continue indefinitely, obviously, patching and filling potholes. As I think I said last week, Council was fortunate to receive a significant level of funding from the state government for heavy pothole patching and that money has been 25% spent so far and crews are continuing to utilise those funds and carry out heavy patching on the roads throughout the shire.  

In addition to those roadworks, there are more extensive rehabilitation works taking place in Hooke Street in Dungog and Park Street in East Gresford and day works will continue into the coming week and into the coming weeks. Works on Summer Hill Road and the final approaches to Bruxner Bridge should be completed in the coming week.  

All of these works and the large amount of funding that's come from the government in recent times or over recent years has put extreme pressure on Council’s workforce and this has resulted obviously in works not being done as quickly as the funds are being received and as quickly as we will go like. It's an insurmountable problem. The workforce is limited, the ability to increase the workforce is virtually non-existent with a reported yesterday, unemployment rate of 3.5%. The ability to engage contractors is also virtually an impossibility at the moment with every Council in exactly the same position as Dungog and all having the same difficulties in recruiting staff and in getting contractors to carry out work. It's a problem we have to live with unfortunately, but Council is doing everything it can carry out the works as quickly as possible and to spend the funds that we've been fortunate in receiving.  

On an even brighter note, on 1 April, the new amenities building at the East Gresford Sportsground is to be opened. The opening is to take place in the course of the soccer club’s gala day. It's the start of their soccer season and the soccer club is a very dominant force in the Gresford and Vacy districts. So that's Saturday 1 April. The building has recently been completed at a cost of about $1.3 million. It was largely funded by the NSW Government with some funding coming from the federal government under the local roads and community infrastructure grants and some funding from Council. It's a great building, it's offering great facilities and it's offering as is the case with all modern facilities, change rooms for males, females and separate facilities for referees. So, it's state of the art and will be a magnificent asset for that community for many years to come. So come along on 1 April.  

And with that, that's all for this week, and look forward to talking to you next week. Goodbye. 

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