COUNCIL CAN DO BETTER
Recently, I visited a little town called Wondai in south-east Queensland. Wondai township has a population of about 2,100 and an original shire population of 4,375. Like Bellingen, it also has a main highway through the middle of town.
But as I drove into Wondai, I had the immediate impression that this was a town that people cared for! It formerly had a railway line running through the main street but this has gone, replaced now with a park, museum, water feature, sculptures and gardens! I marvelled at the freshly painted car parking spaces in the street, the generous, well maintained planter boxes, the tidy streets and footpaths and the absence of potholes in the roads.
I then went to the imposing, multi-story brick council chambers to ask directions but the biggest, most imposing building in the town was empty! But the doors were open so I called out and the sole occupant came to my assistance. He told me that Wondai had an original shire area of 3,800 sq. km, but had been obliged, by the State government in 2008 with several other small, adjoining councils to amalgamate with nearby Kingaroy council to form the South Burnett regional council. So Wondai's administration was now 33km. away. (About the same distance as Bellingen to Coffs.)
I then had a stroll round town, meeting and chatting with a few local business people, the museum staff and some residents. They all told me that they had been initially upset when amalgamation had been forced on them but now realised the huge savings in duplicated admin. costs that this has achieved. They were all proud of their town now, agreeing it was better maintained and without exception, approved of the benefits of amalgamation!
My return to Bellingen shire's 1,605 sq. km. of area made me to wonder why, with a population of 13,010, we have to put up with potholes, empty planter boxes, weeds, lack of footpaths and the mess that is our town heart in Church St?
Doug Winn, Bellingen
COUNCIL FULFILLED ITS DUTY
I see many letters to the paper from local residents very unhappy with our local Council. To that end I'd like to just note for the record that in the last three weeks I have had two dealings with Council.
On both occasions the staff I have worked with have been helpful, proactive, and able to come up with solutions that work for us and for the teams at Council.
Every time we knock council it's easy to also be seen to be knocking the team at the coalface. They're local people working in their community, just the same as a heap of the rest of us, so with two successful outcomes I felt the least I could do was publicly thank them for the work they achieve. Perhaps if we all work a little more to highlight the things that do work (as well as those that don't) we'll all feel a little happier about living together in this great Shire that we call home.