Message from the Mayor: 2 February, 2024

Published on 02 February 2024


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

Friday of last week was Australia Day and Dungog Shire held its annual Australia Day event at the James Theatre in Dungog.

Awards were handed out to the Citizen of the Year, the Young Citizen of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, the Environmental Award for the Year, and the Senior Sports Award.

The recipients of the Citizen of the Year were Erin Fitzgibbon and David Nielsen from Clarence Town. They are the family that each year puts up over 300,000 LED Christmas lights on and around their house, and in the process raises significant amounts of money annually for charity.

The Young Citizen was Claire Harvey, a former senior student at Dungog High School.

The Volunteers were Rita Garland and the late Tom Banister. The Environmental Award went to Ken Rubeli, a well-known environmental educator and warrior in and around the Dungog shire, and the Senior Sports Award went to Andre Stengel, for his most significant contribution to soccer, particularly around Dungog town.

The Ambassador for the day was David Hall, a former Paralympian, a tennis player of great significance through the decade from about the mid-90s to 2005. His record is amazing and has not been surpassed his wins throughout the world during that decade.

Also within the ceremony on the day, there were two citizenship ceremonies and two new citizens one from the USA and one from the Philippines.

On a very different topic, this week has seen the Minister for Local Government announce that he has engaged iPART to carry out a report and investigation into the financial model for local government.

There is no dispute that the current method of financing local government is fundamentally flawed and leads to enormous overspending at times, and underspending at other times. It doesn't produce a good outcome for the community.

Any system that relies on periodic grants creating uncertainty of financial stability can't be good for a good financial outcome.

By way of indication, Dungog Shire is 70% dependent upon government grants to carry out infrastructure works and other works throughout the shire. There is only 30% of the shire’s income that comes from rates and charges.

And then you have one of the annual grant funds, the noncompetitive grant funds, the ‘Block Grant’ and it is so out of kilter with reality, to be again, a disadvantage to places like Dungog. By way of example, Clarence Town Road. The section that is within the Dungog shire,  we get $10,427 per kilometre to maintain it and once you've crossed the border into Port Stephens on the same road, Port Stephens gets $17,719 to maintain the road. A similar situation exists with Tocal Road with Maitland City Council. We get $10,500 and they get almost $18,000 a kilometre for the same road.

So how it can be considered that that is a fair and equitable method of funding local government heaven knows? But regrettably, all of these things are at the end of the day dictated by the metropolitan councils because there are so many more of them than there are rural councils and the impact on them is in the main negligible. Being the smallest or one of the smallest councils in the state, the impact on us and you as ratepayers is indeed significant.

The bulky waste collection throughout the shire commences on the 5th - 16th of February. So I encourage you all to look at Council's website or Facebook page to see the details of what you can put out, or more importantly what you can’t put out. Get it out by the 5th February so that it's there ready for the trucks when they come around. Anybody who's adjacent to current roadworks, the advice is still put out your bulk waste and it will be collected irrespective of whether roadworks is going on in front of your premises.

Thursday of last week, we met with the Minister for Local Regional Roads and Infrastructure Jenny Aitchison, and as part of that as I'm sure you've probably already seen in the media, she announced a school bus run for Clarence Town, something that the school community in particular, have been agitating for for many years, So that school bus commenced this week when the school returned. So a great achievement for the community of Clarence Town ultimately getting its school bus service.

That’s it from me for this week. So until next week goodbye and good luck.



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