Last Wednesday an election was held for the positions of Dungog mayor and deputy mayor. I was elected as mayor and Councillor Bowden as deputy mayor.
This is not a role that I ever sought, but for the short time until my term ends on September 9, 2017, I am dedicated to doing the best job I can for all residents.
We still have people asking if the council is in administration. We are not. We wish to reassure all that the council is working normally. Even with a reduced number of councillors, Dungog Shire has a ratio of 2,750 residents per councillor, as opposed to 6-7,000:1 in surrounding shires.
Dungog has received $1,208,583 from the federal government as a financial assistance grant. This is disappointing as it is formula-based, not needs-based.
All other councils in the Upper Hunter received more - between $1,736,411 and $8,579,214. This is something we must lobby to have changed.
HUNTER COUNCILS MEETING
Last week Shaun Chandler, acting general manager, and I attended, and I addressed, the regular Hunter Councils meeting.
They acknowledged the work we are doing towards regularising Dungog Shire's infrastructure backlog.
There were positive signs that the 11-Council body wanted to co-operate with us helpfully in the future.
We will be disseminating a great deal of statistical information in preparation for the Poll at the elections on September 9.
Nancy Knudsen, Mayor, Dungog
GM’S REPORT A MUST-READ
I urge all residents to read the latest report of the Dungog Council’s general manager, prepared ahead of council’s meeting on 20 June. This report describes a broke and dysfunctional organisation.
The three remaining Dungog councillors who are currently running our council (the fourth is overseas) are apparently oblivious to this situation when one of the poll questions they are intending to ask you is whether you wish Dungog to remain a stand-alone council.
It is also extraordinary that after two years of inaction, suddenly at one minute to midnight, our council wants to consult us.
Port Stephens Council and Maitland City Council have indicated strongly that, post-election there is unlikely to be any desire to merge with Dungog.
Despite this, two of the other merger questions ask you whether Dungog Shire Council should enter into merger negotiations with those two councils.
That leaves as the only option a split of the Dungog Shire. They do not explain how they are intending to split the shire or whether any of our neighbouring local government areas would agree to this.
If the shire is split, will Dungog town retain its administration centre? Will it retain its depot and the staff that are employed there? Will it retain its visitor information centre? Dungog town would just be a small town in a large local government area.
The Port Stephens proposal includes merging Dungog’s tourism supports with their own. It includes retaining the administration centre in some reduced form.
Importantly, it not only includes retaining the council depot and the outdoor staff, but possibly increasing staff numbers, as Port Stephens Council has the capacity to do a large part of its own roadworks rather than contracting them out, as Dungog Shire is currently obliged to do.
It includes retaining the Dungog name with the new council to be called Dungog Port Stephens Regional Council.
Do we want to risk losing 30-plus Council jobs? The possibility of more support for our tourism industry? Our identity as a region, with the Dungog name only being retained by the town? Not to mention the $15m promised by the State government?