COMMENT

Bellingen Shire mayor explains funding decisions

Mayor Dominic King

Mayor Dominic King

THANKFULLY, we were all spared from the most severe impacts of the recent bushfire season with minimal loss of property recorded across our shire, but that doesn't mean that our community isn't still hurting from years of drought then the fires and floods.

That's why I'm pleased that council has been working closely with our community to look at how the Commonwealth's Disaster Recovery and Resilience funds can be invested to plan for the environmental, social and economic impacts our shire faces now and into the future.

As part of that process, during our workshops with representatives from our community, including our shire's three chambers of commerce, we identified that the funding requests received by council would definitely exceed the $1.225 million of funding available.

We also flagged that because of the competing demands placed on these funds, that successful projects would need to demonstrate and deliver shire-wide solutions that would benefit and meet the needs of everybody in our community.

We said this because it is the same message we received from our community, they told us that they wanted to see these funds spent on projects that make us a more resilient and prepared community that can deal with the challenges that past, current and future disasters will present.

So that is why I and the majority of your councillors voted in support of the projects that received funding, because ultimately that meant every resident across all of our villages would directly or indirectly benefit from these shire-wide initiatives.

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate that many of our local businesses are challenged by financial sustainability issues and that the impacts of the recent fires and current COVID-19 pandemic have not eased the burden they've carried for quite some time now.

Which is why our own shire's allocation of $145,000 for economic development and recovery is similar to the economic recovery allocations made by other councils within our region and we will continue to resource and pursue additional regional tourism funding opportunities to the value of $230,000.

That means we will continue to remain engaged with our business community including local chambers of commerce and maintain our discussions with them and the broader community to explore shire-wide initiatives that provide long-term solutions to the environmental, social and economic impacts we will face in the years ahead.

Ultimately, it was never going to be easy to balance the needs of all community organisations with the holistic needs our broader community, but I am comfortable that the decisions we have made will strengthen our community's capacity to meet the challenges of the future.

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