Message from the Mayor: 17 December 2021

2021 truly has been a remarkable year.

Despite continued COVID-19 lockdowns, various extreme weather events and their subsequent impacts, as a community the citizens of Dungog Shire have once again displayed our resilience, our courage and our ability to support one another, no matter what the situation.

During this time, we have realised many significant achievements, both as a council and as a community, and as I write to you for the final time this year, I reflect on the highlights from the year that was.

2021 IN REVIEW:


CAPITAL WORKS

This year, council established a fully funded $31.5M capital works program for 2021/2022 PLUS $25M for local and regional roads, to be expended over the next five years. Notable infrastructure upgrades include:

  • $7.53M for 12 local timber bridge replacements;
     
  • $7.21M for seven projects on Clarence Town Road from Dungog to Clarence Town;
     
  • $6M for progression of the Clarence Town Bridge construction adjacent to the Brig O’Johnston Bridge;
     
  • $5.29M for local road rehabilitation under the Fixing Local Roads Grant and the Special Rate Variation; and
     
  • $1.08M for the Dungog Library upgrade.

These upgrades are funded through a combination of federal and state government grants and council funds, and will deliver much-needed improvements for the Dungog community.


ROADS

Council successfully advocated for vital road funding to improve and maintain our 718km road network, while several major upgrades were undertaken to roads across the shire. Highlights included:

  • $25M Special Purpose Grant from the Australian and NSW Governments to improve the condition of our local road network, as a result of successful lobbying during the Upper Hunter by-election.
     
  • $1.79M for safer roads in the shire under the NSW Government’s Road Safety program, with the funding split among three of the region’s priority road safety hot spots including Bingleburra Road, the Allyn River Road and Bingleburra Road intersection, and Stroud Hill Road.
     
  • Commencement of the $25M Clarence Town Road – Raymond Terrace to Dungog Project. Rehabilitation on the first 2.3km section of Clarence Town Road (Parers Hill to Union Bridge) has been completed, with works on Segment 1 currently underway. 
     
  • Major upgrades to Paterson River Road, Salisbury Road, Flat Tops Road, Summer Hill Road and Black Rock Road, with works jointly funded by NSW Government grants and council’s Special Rate Variation (SRV).
     
  • Major works at Glendonbrook Road and Durham Road, including kerb and guttering in the primary school precinct.


BRIDGES

2021 has seen several significant bridge upgrades across the shire:

  • $16.44M was received under the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Bridges program to replace 23 out of 24 timber bridges in Dungog Shire. Construction is happening on the first three of these bridge replacements, with Archinals and Bruxner bridges underway, and the new Mary Carlton’s Bridge anticipated to be open by Christmas. Tenders have been awarded for Saxby and Hopson’s bridges, with construction scheduled for early in the new year.
     
  • The $2.1M Tillegra Bridge was completed, with funding from the Australian Government’s Bridges Renewal Program and the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Roads Program.
     
  • Pre-construction work is underway in preparation for the construction of a new bridge over the Williams River, adjacent to the heritage-listed Brig O’Johnston Bridgeat Clarence Town. The new Clarence Town Bridge is a $14.3M project, with $8.8M from the Australian Government, $5.5M from the NSW Government, and the project managed by Dungog Shire Council, with assistance from TfNSW.

 

COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE

We celebrated the advancement of important community infrastructure including:

  • Construction of the Bennett Park kiosk, Williams River Holiday Park amenities and $168,000 Coronation Park upgrade. The playground upgrade included the installation of new play equipment, fencing, paths and shade sails and is largely funded by the Australian Government’s Local Road and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) Program and the NSW Government’s Everyone Can Play Program.
     
  • Progression of the Dungog Library upgrade, with a DA submitted for the endorsed design and a view to awarding a tender for construction in the second quarter of next year.
     
  • Geotechnical and site investigations completed for the Gresford Sporting Amenities project, with the facility design anticipated to be finalised early in 2022.
     
  • Completion of the $2M Clarence Town Sporting Facility. Funded by the NSW Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund (SCCF), the facility provides new change rooms, amenities, kiosks, referee facilities and first aid rooms for use by local sporting teams and community user groups. A successful Rugby League Carnival was the first event held at the new facility on 31 July.


TOURISM & ECONOMY

Tourism and economic growth in the shire was bolstered with a number of efforts including:

  • Council endorsed the Dungog Shire Destination Management Plan, prepared by Dungog Regional Tourism, in consultation with council, community groups, tourism bodies and state and local government agencies. The Plan outlines the importance of our region’s visitor economy: contributing $37.922M to shire output and $17.228M in value-adds. This local industry is also responsible for around 180 jobs across the shire.
     
  • The planning proposal to allow a mountain bike park at Dungog Common was formalised, with council working together with all key stakeholders in support of this valuable tourism and recreational asset.
     
  • Over $260,000 was awarded under Round 2 of the NSW Government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund (BLERF) to support the Camping to Common Trail Connection. This trail provides an important linkage connecting Dungog Showground to the Dungog Common and has been identified as a key opportunity in the Destination Management Plan.
     
  • Appointment of an Economic Development Manager, Mr Daniel LeBlanc, with the newly created role designed to foster prosperity in the region.
     
  • Commencement of a comprehensive Strategic Property Review of council’s commercial property portfolio, culminating in the sale of 74 Common Road and 2260 Stroud Hill Road, to make room for new commercial projects.
     
  • A number of plans and projects designed to advance and support community facilities and the shire’s local economy were progressed including: Visitors’ Information Centre Renewal Project, Open Space & Rec Plan, Cultural Plan and the Economic Development Plan.


ENVIRONMENT

Notable environmental initiatives across the shire included:

  • Adoption of Dungog’s Shirewide Flying Fox Management Plan to minimise the impacts of Flying-fox camps and maximise broad community benefits. The Plan was prepared utilising grant funding from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and was guided by an Advisory Committee, expert ecological advice and an experienced independent Principal Consultant.
     
  • Council worked toward greater sustainability and reducing its environmental footprint, adopting five pledges under the Cities Power Partnership:
     
    • Ensuring council fleet purchases meet strict greenhouse gas emissions requirements and support the uptake of electric vehicles.
       
    • Actively participate in the development of a regional electric vehicle strategy.
       
    • Installing renewable energy (solar PV and battery storage) on council buildings.
       
    • Supporting cycling through provision of adequate cycle lanes, bike parking and end of ride facilities.
       
    • The roll out of energy efficient lighting across the shire: a proposal to upgrade all 481 street lights in Dungog Shire to more efficient LED lighting was accepted, a move which will see council save around $47,000 per year.

The TOMRA Return and Earn Reverse Vending Machine continued to prove one of the shire’s most popular assets, with over 3 million containers returned in over 18 months!


LAND USE AND PLANNING

Planning reforms across the state saw the major changes including:

  • A successful transition was made to state-wide e-planning from 1 July, with council receiving a $50,000 Regional NSW Planning Portal Grant to support this transition. Funds have contributed to a dedicated kiosk area in council's Administration Building, for information and assistance to lodge applications via the NSW Planning Portal.
     
  • Dungog Shire’s draft Rural Lands Strategy (RLS) is on public exhibition until 31 March 2022, and once adopted will serve to underpin the shire’s upcoming Local Environmental Plan (LEP), which is the primary planning document used to guide land use and inform all planning decisions.
     
  • Council’s planning staff approved 236 development applications worth more than $34.76M in 2021. This represents a 15% increase over the previous year, highlighting steady growth and a growing reputation as a region of opportunity and investment


PEOPLE

As a community, we came together to:

  • Celebrate the victory of one of our own, with Dungog native Spencer Turrin, winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics in July, as part of the Australian Men’s Fours rowing team.
     
  • Support a ‘Let’s Get it Done, Dungog!’ vaccination campaign, spearheaded by myself and the General Manager, to help protect our shire against the threat of COVID-19. I also participated in the Mayor’s Vaccination Challenge with neighbouring councils, with Dungog placing third.
     
  • Acknowledge the efforts of our local SES and emergency management response teams, for their tireless work to help keep our community safe during several significant extreme weather and flooding events.
     
  • Farewell our current term of council and thank all councillors for their contributions to our community. With local government elections held on 4 December, we anticipate the results of the incoming council to be announced just before Christmas.

 

It certainly has been an incredible year!

On behalf of everyone here at Dungog Shire Council, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe, happy and healthy Christmas season and I look forward to continuing our achievements together in 2022.

Merry Christmas,

JOHN CONNORS
Mayor