Message from the Mayor August 2021As 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.
The challenge of vaccinating our nation is a priority. We are incredibly fortunate to live where we live, and to have access to health care. We need to focus on what we can control - adhering to the Public Health Orders, vigilance at all times, and a very open and informed manner that places ourselves, our communities and the wider population first and foremost.
The RUOK message is so very relevant here. Living in small, connected communities is such an advantage, investing in our “village” will mean that there is somebody/somebodies who care enough to ask this question.
Complacency and COVID fatigue are very real, but we can all have some influence in this space by continuing to do what we need to within the restrictions placed before us. Always remembering that the restrictions, stay at home and lockdown orders, are the risk minimisation strategies that have best served us to date. It is a simple message - compliance will keep us safe.
On a brighter note, this week is Local Government Week. While we’re not holding any events this year, it’s a great time to reflect on the tremendous diversity of services and areas that Council is involved in. As a sector, we’re responsible for looking after $261 million in infrastructure assets, which includes pools, parks and playgrounds, sporting ovals and complexes, libraries, halls, cemeteries, waste depots and the list goes on. Local Councils are a reflection of the complex community we serve – day in, day out.
Another crucial role Council plays is engagement and advocacy. Throughout the first fortnight of July, we met with many groups across health, water, planning, Chamber of Commerce and aged care. In the third week, COVID-19 revisited and saw many more meetings going back online, which brings very real challenges all over again.
Agriculture is the cornerstone of our community and welcome rain sees our Council footprint well soaked. The Murrumbidgee River is high, which has necessitated closing the Darlington Point Boat Ramp to ensure public safety. I remind you never to drive through floodwaters.
Our major projects continue to progress, however, unfortunately, the Victorian Government’s decision to remove our Council area from the border bubble will impact works. We are working closely with the Member for Albury, Justin Clancy, to reach a more suitable solution.
The sporting precinct development at Coleambally is getting can actually see what the end product will be. The Preschool and Long Day Care Centre in Jerilderie is a busy worksite and it’s exciting to watch the progress. In Darlington Point, we will officially open the Wiradjuri Walk Shared Spaces Project as soon as practicable. This meritorious project deserves public acknowledgement and we look forward to an opening in the near future.
Some ongoing issues that are affecting us as at Council and the greater region are affordable and social housing, recruitment and retention of staff across all fields, including professional, trade qualified and unskilled, mental health access and equity, and accessible pathways for all health services, economic development and investment.
In view of the gravity of the situation in Greater Sydney, the NSW Government has decided to postpone the Local Government elections until 4 December 2021. The deferral provides extra time to consider running as a candidate.
We have many dedicated and passionate people in our community who would make a valuable contribution in the Local Government sphere. I encourage you to seriously consider this opportunity to stand for Local Government. It is indeed a privilege to take on the role of an Elected Member. It is a worthwhile and challenging opportunity - marrying community expectation and being able to deliver within the confines of an available budget and Local Government legislation is a very real balancing act.
The deferral also means that all current Councillors must continue in their roles until the election. This is on top of the extra 12 months that we have already held office. I thank my fellow Councillors for their commitment and continued dedication to our area.
Importantly, I would also thank our Council staff who have constantly adapted to a changing environment and continued to provide a high level of service to our community.
In closing, I again urge you all to stay safe, stay positive and look out for each other.
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.
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.
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.