Working together is a winning combination for Bellingen Shire Council and the local community, according to the judges of the 2019 New South Wales Local Government Excellence Awards.
That's because council's collaborative efforts to develop a new Growth Management Strategy for the shire have just been announced as the winner of the Community Partnerships and Collaboration Category.
The announcement was made at the 2019 Local Government Awards Dinner held in Sydney, where Bellingen's submission was selected as the best from a field of nine finalists in the councils with populations under 60,000 section.
Bellingen Shire Mayor, Cr Dominic King, said the awards celebrated examples of exceptional achievement by local councils that encouraged and fostered innovation and continuous improvement.
"Council's submission featured our Homes for Our Future Community Engagement Project, which saw council and the community come together to create a shared vision on how to sustainably manage growth in the shire and maintain its existing character," he said.
"Our engagement activities focused on identifying our community's long-term views on how they wanted our shire to grow, their priorities for future planning and ideas on how to address complex challenges facing our shire.
"This shared vision has subsequently been used to translate the community's hopes and aspirations into a meaningful Growth Management Strategy for our shire, which will guide decision-making and investment in the region for decades."
Bellingen Shire Council General Manager, Liz Jeremy, said council's Strategic Land Use Planning Team had spoken to more than 500 community members, collected 250 detailed submissions and logged 1900 comments during the Homes for Our Future Community Engagement Project.
"Council's team sought to gather feedback from a truly diverse range of stakeholders and seek out those voices not often heard from - so the team went to markets, schools, community meetings and held hundreds of one-on-one discussions with locals to make that happen."
"It's exciting and rewarding for the project team and the local community to have their collaborative efforts recognised and celebrated, I think it shows just what can be achieved when we all work together," Ms Jeremy said.
"That's why in the future we will be establishing a demographically representative community panel that we can engage with regularly, so we can provide the best information possible for the councillors to inform their decision making."
Council's winning submission has also been shortlisted as a finalist in the upcoming LG Professionals Australia Federation Awards. Winners will be announced at the 2019 National Congress & Business Expo Gala Dinner in Darwin on Thursday August 1.
The award comes hot on the heels of independent research showing that council's financial sustainability is tracking well.