Message from the Mayor - June 2021
May has been hectic, to say the least, with a lot of time spent on the road engaging with our representative bodies.
This has included appearing before the Parliamentary Inquiry into Health Outcomes and Access to Health and Hospital Services in Rural, Regional and Remote New South Wales. In our brief appearance, and the follow up that we have witnessed, it is glaringly apparent that the way our health care is delivered, by whom it is delivered and our equity in this space, all require serious remodelling.
Communities outside of metropolitan and regional centres should not carry the burden of disadvantage that many do on a daily basis. This applies to all areas of care: aged, palliative, allied health, medical, paediatric and the list goes on. Financial and human resourcing challenges are the red flags that lead the list of identified areas of urgent concern.
Council recently facilitated community meetings in Darlington Point and Coleambally to engage with concerned residents and users of the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP). We recognise the level of concern regarding the delivery of these services, particularly community transport, and are working diligently in this space to deliver these services. This requires a lateral mindset that allows us to best use the allocated funding for the maximum output for our people who rely on this service.
The General Manager, Deputy Mayor and I attended the Newell Highway Taskforce Committee Meeting at Parliament House in Canberra on 13 May. Significant works in the future predominantly to the north are by-passes, linkages to SAP’s, overtaking lanes, bridge replacements, flood mitigation and identification of fatigue/rest stops.
The General Manager and I attended a Financial Sustainability Workshop and RAMJO Board Meeting in Deniliquin on 11 and 12 May 2021. What is clearly evident is the disconnect between the expectation and productivity that RAMJO delivers in spades and the gross underfunding that the Office of Local Government deems appropriate. Again our local Councils are picking up the pieces, but we have a limited amount to contribute. RAMJO and its member Councils will need a very loud voice in this space to ensure its longevity.
The General Manager and I attended the 77th Murray Darling Association Conference in Wentworth on 17, 18 and 19 May 2021. The message is clear - there is no more new water and we need to ensure that we best use what we have. However, the need or greed, depending on your point of view, has to be managed - compliance and a managed market will go a long way towards making this a reality and ensuring that our communities, our environment and our productivity/economy all have a place with a future.
Council staff have been working diligently preparing our Budget Papers and progressing a template for the rollout of the Rates Harmonisation Model. This is a really challenging space and it behoves us all to read and re-read what is provided to us so we are best informed moving forward. Our draft Operational Plan and Delivery Programme are currently on exhibition and I encourage you to review these important documents.
Council is very much engaged in major projects, and to see them progressing is very rewarding, with many more projects to come. The continuing funding opportunities coming our way have Council well placed to avail ourselves of this welcome and community building opportunity.
A number of new initiatives came out of the May Council meeting:
- Tenders will be called for the detailed design and construction of the Jerilderie Skate Park/Pump Track at Elliott Park and the Mini Skate Bowl at CWA Park in Darlington Point.
- Dog waste dispensers will be installed throughout the Council area.
- A Masterplan for installing Lift and Change Facilities across the Council area was adopted.
- The facilities at Monash Park and Coleambally Squash Courts have been prioritised for Round 4 of the NSW Government Stronger Country Communities Fund. These projects allow Council to meet the grant guidelines for enhancing female sporting facilities and increasing female participation.
Last week it was a great pleasure to hold the symbolic sod turning for the Early Learning Centre in Jerilderie. The Member for Albury Justin Clancy met with the Early Learning Centre Committee members, Councillors and Council staff, as well as the Contractor and Architect to mark the occasion.
If you’re thinking of running for Council, the NSW Electoral Commission is running information webinars. These are very informative and I encourage you to avail yourself of them. Local Government elections will be held on Saturday 4 September 2021.
Congratulations to all of the 2020 Australia Day Citizenship and Community Awards.
Read all the messages from our Mayor here.
Winter is upon us and the year is passing way too quickly! Much anticipated follow up rainfall is trickling in, and we live in hope that it does in fact arrive.
Water and better management of the Murray Darling Basin has been on the agenda this week with the release of a key position paper on water. The paper recommends major changes to the way water is managed.
I would like to begin by thanking everyone who has provided feedback on the Town Revitalisation Project. Throughout the last two weeks we have received a tremendous amount of input and ideas about ways to revitalise our townships.
Another week at the coal face. While acknowledging the very real challenge and urgency of trying to contain this insidious virus, we must continue to do all in our power to support those trying to conduct business, those delivering our aged care and health services and those educating and caring for our children. Our community’s sustainability depends on it.
It’s Local Government Week 2020, and at Murrumbidgee Council we are using the event to highlight the broad range of services we offer to our community, including some surprising and little-known services.
We have certainly had an icy blast in the last week, which thankfully brought with it some good follow up rains. It is exciting to see the lights up and working at Jerilderie’s Monash Park. This project was funded by Council through a $158,000 grant from the NSW Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund. The junior teams and key personnel are using the lights, which is great.
We’re already in September and are certainly getting on with things. Needless to say, we’re still very much in a state of uncertainty. The everyday need to conduct business is challenging and frustrating. Our geographical location quite clearly demonstrates strong pathways and linkages both to the east and south. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, a considered rationale will enable our region to move again. At Council, we, like other businesses, are continuing to deliver our essential services. We’re also continuing to advocate for movement with every other aspect.
Spring is with us, and as we slowly emerge from our very unnatural year, our countryside certainly speaks to renewal, optimism and opportunity.
Spring has certainly brought some challenging conditions. We wait, with optimism, at what promises to be a great harvest – let’s hope the weather Gods play nicely and allow the area to fulfil its potential!
It is all hands on deck as we move towards the close of 2020. Business “as usual” sees us busy but adapting to a different way of delivering what we need to. Our harvest is in full swing and a hive of activity with machinery, trucks and people working long hours to get the crops off. From all reports it is producing some outstanding returns.
On behalf of Murrumbidgee Council, we offer our best wishes for a very merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year to all in our Council and greater region. It is hard to believe that we have reached the end of 2020. It’s been a roller coaster and the ride is one we don’t wish to revisit any time soon.
The start of 2021 has been busy and we are already into autumn! Our region has received significant rain, and the country and our waterways have been replenished. A bountiful harvest was a very welcome reward in a year that had been seriously challenging. Our small businesses continue to press on with resilience and optimism, and it is my hope that we are supporting them as best we can and that the new normal will provide us with a sustainable way forward.
The seasons are progressing quickly and 2021 is disappearing at a rate of knots. After a very warm Easter break - perfect for camping and family gatherings - we have moved onto shorter days and cooler evenings and mornings.
This month we have been blessed with some very welcome and timely rain - almost too good to be true. We are, however, mindful of the havoc that was caused by the torrential rains, particularly for our coastal counterparts. It is our hope that the damage and chaos can be managed as best it can.
As I sit and ponder the state of the nation, our state and Murrumbidgee Council, it is difficult to fathom the challenges that keep presenting themselves. The latest COVID-19 outbreaks most certainly have created havoc with business, education, Local Government and, most significantly, our health related service delivery.
We certainly live in an unpredictable environment at the moment. The Public Health message tells us how highly transmissible the Delta strain of COVID-19 is. We have seen how it impacts regional areas, with Shepparton and Temora very close examples. We should all be aware of the considerable risk for our Council footprint given our geographical location and our exposure to three very busy major traffic corridors - the Kidman Way and the Sturt and Newell Highways. The message is clear - Stay home and stay safe!
Just when we thought all avenues of natural, or unnatural, misadventure had challenged us, we have an earth tremor/quake! I would calmly like to assure whomever is testing our resilience that “we get it”. “Enough is enough!”
As this is my first column since the Local Government elections, I would like to begin by congratulating all elected representatives. A very warm welcome to Crs Troy Mauger, Judy Saxvik and Tim Strachan. Welcome back to our returning Councillors – Crs Robert Black (Deputy Mayor), Faith Bryce, Christine Chirgwin, Robert Curphey and Gavin Gilbert.
Easter is almost here and it’s refreshing to have a major celebration ahead of us without also facing restrictions!
Autumn has been spectacular in our area, with welcome timely rain followed by perfect fine days. April was busy. Harvests are all but finished and the ground is being worked up and prepped for the next rotation.
As we say goodbye to perfect autumn weather, winter is certainly making its presence felt. Thankfully, the countryside looks amazing and the crops have had an ideal opportunity to be out of the ground. Not only are we experiencing a resurgence of COVID across the community, but the flu season is well and truly here. I urge you all to be mindful of the public health messaging that applies to both COVID and the flu.
We’re now in the second month of winter, and the cooler, damper and foggier conditions are certainly a reminder of this time of year. Our roads are busy with the great exodus north to warmer places and, coupled with school holiday traffic, it is a timely reminder to be vigilant on our roads and stay safe.
As we move through the winter months, we once again find ourselves challenged by another COVID 19 variant. Coupled with a particularly virulent strain of the flu and an accompanying gastro bug, we are all are certainly feeling the strain. Public messaging for all these illnesses is consistent – if someone is unwell, they should stay at home - it really is the only way to get on top of the revolving spread.
Our Council area, like most others, is receiving varying amounts of rain. Some parts are very wet, resulting in delays in planting and moving produce. Others are getting just enough to keep their hopes alive for another bumper season. The wet weather is taking a toll on our road network and I urge you all to be mindful on the roads, especially around school buses. Our roads are our biggest asset and the damage caused when wet weather is upon us is difficult and very costly to remediate.
It’s amazing to believe that we are already into October! The plentiful rains continue to fall and our agricultural season is so full of promise and, in turn, our region looks set to deliver in spades.
Our region is certainly experiencing its share of rain, with the Murrumbidgee River, creeks and waterways carrying large amounts of water. Our thoughts are with anyone who has been impacted by the water. At these times, the SES public messaging is so very important, and we encourage all of the community to listen carefully and follow the relevant advice. The safety of our communities is paramount. Never drive, ride or walk through flood water. If it’s flooded, forget it!
The past month was challenging, to say the least, with the weather continuing to test us unreasonably, with impacts on our whole Council area - from the Murrumbidgee River in the north to the Billabong and Wangamong Creeks in the south, and everywhere in between. The rivers and creeks are full and the vast agricultural landscape is sodden, with parts still immersed in water.