Message from the Mayor - 18 December 2020

As I write to you for the final time in 2020, I reflect on the year that has been and everything that we, as a community, have collectively achieved during this time.

We have emerged from fierce drought, endured devastating bushfires across much of our country that isolated many rural communities such as Dungog during our traditional tourist season, and faced head-on, the effects of a global pandemic.

Despite all of this, we have come together to display ingenuity, compassion and a renewed resilience to overcome any challenges we encounter. As we prepare for the Christmas break and bid farewell to 2020, we look back over the events and achievements of this memorable year.

 

2020 IN REVIEW:

PEOPLE

Commencing in the Mayoral role at the beginning of March this year, saw Dungog Shire with a new Mayor, shortly followed by the appointment of Interim General Manager, Stephen Glen. I take this opportunity to thank Steve for his invaluable assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we were faced with the uncertainty of the unknown during this developing health crisis.

Four months later saw the appointment of new General Manager, Gareth Curtis on 1 July. I would like to thank Gareth for his insight and his dedication to the role, and for all that has been achieved in his short tenure so far.

2020 also saw an influx of visitors to the Dungog Shire, with record visitor numbers hitting our town for the June long weekend. As restrictions relaxed following COVID-19 shutdowns, large numbers of visitors were discovering Dungog as a popular recreational and scenic regional destination.

 

COVID-19

Supporting our community and keeping one another safe throughout COVID-19 was a top priority for us all this year. Here at council, we increased communication, amended service delivery and offered financial respite through extensions to our Hardship Policy, delayed rates notices and passing a ‘no debt recovery’ resolution.

Thank you to our entire community for your patience and cooperation during the peak of the pandemic – from the CWA ladies making masks to the sporting groups and committees who worked with us to ensure the health and wellbeing of our entire community.


COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE

Council has completed various community infrastructure upgrades during 2020. Major works include:

  • Bennett Park, Dungog: Construction of an accessible amenities block.
  • Clarence Town Sports Facility: Work is underway on this $2M community sporting and recreational asset, with completion anticipated for September 2021.
  • Dungog Netball Courts: The new concrete court works are complete, with final painting of the courts due in early 2021.
  • Dungog Showground Lighting Upgrade: Completed in September, this $300K infrastructure upgrade saw new LED lighting installed at the Showground to improve lighting to the arena to local competition standard, while reducing energy consumption costs for all user groups.
  • Dungog Showground: With $474K in upgrade works plus more than $100K in resurfacing works completed at the Showground this year, an additional $180K worth of works is planned for 2021. 
  • Williams River Holiday Park: Upgrade commenced.
  • Dungog and Clarence Town Pools: Process and facility improvements to ensure both pools earn COVID Safe qualification and meet Australian standards.


ENVIRONMENT

It’s fair to say the Return n Earn Reverse Vending Machine might be one of the most popular new assets in the shire this year! At last count, (on 30 September) 698,645 containers had been returned since it was commissioned in May 2020. We hope to continue these efforts in 2021.

A grant from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment saw council commence the preparation of a shire-wide Flying Fox Management Plan to reduce community impacts of flying-fox camps in the Dungog region.

Recently, council resolved to join the Cities Power Partnership -- Australia’s largest local government climate network, made up of 123 councils from across the country and representing almost 11 million Australians working toward clean energy solutions. (For full details see article below).


ROADS

Council has conducted a number of major road projects across our 700km+ road network
this year. These include:

  • Dowling Street: With a final seal applied in November, the roadworks component of this $2.5M upgrade to Dungog’s main street is now complete.
  • Torryburn Road: This $723K road upgrade is scheduled for a final seal in February 2021.
  • Lord Street (Mary to Myles Street): Similarly, this $367K road works project is now practically complete, with a final seal scheduled for February 2021.
  • Clarence Town Road: Having recently received official approval for this $13.37M critical upgrade project, works have already commenced.
  • MR101 Tocal to Dungog: The $10M of works over the last 3½ years on the Specific Purpose Grant for specific sections of MR101 from Tocal to Dungog have now been completed. These projects have included works on Tocal Road, Maitland Road at Paterson, Dungog Road and Dowling Street.
  • Blackspot Works:
    • Bingleburra Road: Two projects are currently underway (totalling $1.26M) with the first section at the Sugarloaf end practically complete with guardrail currently being installed.  Works have also commenced on the second section at the Turnbulls Road end; and
    • Clarence Town Road: The shoulder widening project south of Tabbil Creek is nearing completion.

We also celebrated the announcement of $4.4M in NSW Government funding for Paterson River, Salisbury and Summer Hill roads, with works underway on Summer Hill Road, as well as approval for $13.37M in Australian Government funding for Clarence Town Road, with work commencing immediately.


BRIDGES

In 2020, council has undertaken the replacement of a number of bridges including Coulston, Spooner, Summerhill, Wheelabout Bridge and Bullockeys bridges.

Substantial works have also been carried out on the replacement of Tillegra Bridge, with funding approval received for the $14.3M Brig O’Johnston Bridge replacement.

Further to these works, council has recently applied for $18.7M under the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Bridges program for the replacement of all 24 timber bridges across the shire. We expect to hear the results of this application later this month.


HERITAGE

April 2020 saw the approval for a Conservation Management Plan for all three war memorials in Clarence Town and grant funding of more than $8000 to relocate the Boer War Memorial Alexander Eagleton Gates.

Later this year, the decision was made to relocate the gates to the main Cenotaph – Soldier’s Memorial in Grey Street, Clarence Town, prior to ANZAC Day 2021, with council supporting the concept of a community-led ceremony at the relocated gates to commemorate Boer War Day in May 2021.

Working with Transport for NSW, repairs were carried out on the heritage-listed Brig O’Johnston Bridge, following earlier heavy vehicle damage. 2020 also saw approval for construction of a new $14.3M two-lane bridge over the Williams River at Clarence Town, to replace the existing single-lane structure. $14.3M project


LAND USE & PLANNING

An updated Plan of Management and DA approval will see the return of camping at the Dungog Showground. This is set to have widespread economic and tourism benefits for Dungog Township (see full details in article below).

Adoption of the Rural Lands Strategy: Policy Directions Paper provided a critical step toward adoption of the Rural Lands Strategy, anticipated in the first quarter of 2021. The Strategy has widespread community impacts, as it 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 247 development applications worth more than $24.8M in the past financial year. This represents an 11% increase over the 18/19 financial year and an 18% increase on 17/18, highlighting the steady growth within the shire in recent years and Dungog’s growing reputation as a region of opportunity and investment.


GRANTS

Council has submitted 30 grant applications for projects valued at more than $4.2M since February 2020, and has contributed $165,965 to projects for which grant funding has been applied for. 

This does not include specific road and bridge applications made since July 2019, which totals in excess of $29M, with council contributions of $1.938M.

Council relies on grant funding for the construction, repair and upgrade of infrastructure assets, as well as the provision of community programs and facilities, and we are grateful to the state and federal governments for the provision of these funds. 


It really has been a remarkable year!

On behalf of everyone here at Dungog Shire Council, I wish you and your families a happy, healthy and safe Christmas season, and I look forward to further growing and prospering our shire in 2021.

To get in touch, please phone 4995 7777 or email shirecouncil@dungog.nsw.gov.au.

 

Merry Christmas,

JOHN CONNORS
Mayor


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