I am really looking forward to another year of working with residents and council staff in this amazing shire … the coming year will see us completing some important projects and starting to make further improvements for the community, which is exciting.
It will be great to see the finishing touches completed in the centre of Bellingen. There are just a few things to do and then the heart of the town can start to grow around its new refreshed look.
The gardens and landscape will really start to establish themselves, creating a lovely place for residents and visitors to enjoy.
2019 will also see a start on the refurbishment of the Bellingen Memorial Hall, after the efforts of many people to gain funding of over $4 million.
Urunga Lido and more
Building on the dredging in the Urunga Lagoon and having the Lido constructed, as well as improvements to the Mylestom Surf Club house and pathways, Urunga’s library meeting room extension and disabled toilets at Urunga, along with stage one of the boardwalk and path works in Urunga, will really improve the facilities at Urunga and Mylestom.
It will be a huge step toward developing a more disability accessible Urunga. This is a project we have been working towards for a long time, so seeing it in place will be very rewarding.
There will be improvements to Coronation Park, the tennis club and path work at Dorrigo, which will be great to see.
Other projects on the radar include the pending application for funding for works at Dangar Falls, an $873,372 project. We are due to hear back any day and have our fingers crossed for success with this project.
It would mean a lot to the Dorrigo area and the Shire more broadly.
The council has taken significant steps to reduce our emissions. This year we are going through the process of developing a new emission reduction program and I am looking forward to identifying how our council can become a leading local government body in this area, and further reduce its impacts on the environment through establishing a new plan for the future.
It will be great to see projects completed and enjoyed by residents and visitors of all ages and abilities as well as our environment cared for and nurtured for future generationsDominic King
Planning for the future
I am keen to see important strategic planning for land use undertaken, with the Growth Management Strategy and Koala Plan of Management being key documents that will help our community balance our needs with those of the environment in a more sustainable way.
Upgrading our assets
Another thing I am looking forward to is more of our aging assets being upgraded so they better meet the community’s needs.
Deep Creek, Savins and Adams bridges will be replaced with plans for more into the future if we are successful in gaining grants to supplement council funds.
Our growing resealing program is leading to something I want to see more of, a safer road network.
But there are also some challenges:
Pacific Highway handover
Negotiations for this commenced some two years ago and it is likely now that any handover will take place in the next financial year.
This is a concern as cost shifting to council from government departments has been estimated to cost Bellingen Shire Council and ratepayers $1.8 million a year. The handover of the Old Pacific Hwy to council would further add to this financial burden.
This NSW State Government owned asset is definitely something we don’t want on our books as the maintenance and ongoing depreciation will have massive implications for our already stretched budget.
Waste and recycling
The impacts of the China Sword policy and the NSW Government’s revocation of the waste exemption around mixed waste organic material have been significant.
At the moment we are working with our partner councils, the EPA and our contractors to look at all the options available to us.
It is my strong view that all of the money the State Government receives from the waste levy should be used to help councils through these issues.
Protection of river catchments
This will be a particular priority.
Last year was the third year in a row that there was a low flow rate in our rivers. These water bodies supply our drinking water, and are vital for our agriculture and tourism as well as biodiversity, recreation and fishing.
With a changing climate producing less reliable rainfall we must ensure that all activities in the catchment are not impacting water quality or using too much of this vital resource.
I will certainly be working hard with the other Mayors, Councillors, Council Staff, Local Government NSW, and residents in the region and around the state to ensure the rate payers are not once again asked to foot the bill for these extra costs.
Overall it will be great to see projects completed and enjoyed by residents and visitors of all ages and abilities as well as our environment cared for and nurtured for future generations.