Councillors passed some important resolutions at last week’s meeting of the Dungog Shire Council.
First and foremost, we resolved to acknowledge the results of both the poll and referendum held in conjunction with the September DSC Local Government Elections.
The referendum vote supported moving to a popularly elected Mayor and six Councillors, and retaining the existing three ward system. This must be implemented by Dungog Shire Council at the 2020 Local Government Elections if we remain a stand-alone Council at that point.
The poll result was in favour of opening merger discussions with Port Stephens Council. Council resolved to formulate a strategy to approach Port Stephens Council to begin merger discussions, and to send a delegation to Port Stephens Council to gauge interest in such a move. Port Stephens Mayor, Cr Ryan Palmer has indicated both privately to me, and publicly, that he is willing to discuss ways that the two Local Government Areas could cooperate. However Cr Palmer maintains his pre-election stance that a merger with Dungog is not in the interest of the Port Stephens community.
Councillors are involved in workshops this week, including one to update us on our current financial position. Once we have been presented with these numbers, I will be gauging all Councillors’ thoughts on how we can formulate a broad-based approach Port Stephens to find good outcomes for both of our Local Government Areas. I will report on this further in next week’s update.
Council also resolved to extend the Acting General Manager role until 18 May, 2018 and to start the recruitment process to find a permanent General Manager. Our current Acting GM, Shaun Chandler has agreed to the extension.
Also at the last meeting, Councillors resolved to start investigating the possibility of applying for a Special Rates Variation. This is the start of a long process, which involves gauging the community’s expectations and aspirations and its willingness and ability to pay for the services and infrastructure that are expected.
It involves community engagement and consultation before any decisions about a rate rise application can be determined.
We have an extremely tight deadline to apply to IPART for a Special Rates Variation for next year, so we need to forge ahead with our investigations. We will keep you, the community, updated on the progress of the investigation and of the wheres, whens and whats of the community engagement we will be employing.
All the fire crews in the Shire had a busy time last month, and it’s only Spring.
Bendolba-Salisbury Fire Captain, Nick Helyer, reports the busiest start to the fire season in his memory, with the crew doing 24 shifts in 26 days. They attended three major fires in their area, at Underbank, Upper Chichester and Chichester Dam, as well as a smaller fire in Quartpot Creek. Many surrounding crews were also there to lend a hand. Nick’s crew and others also assisted Dungog at the Main Creek fire.
Thanks to all our firefighters, and other volunteers for their tremendous efforts. And remember there is a long way to go before the fire season ends, so please spare a thought for their tireless efforts, both in September and going forward.
Well done to Sarah U’Brien and her team at the Dungog Shire Community Centre. They were the 2017 Get Ready Community Award Winners for their “Reflections of Resilience” campaign to acknowledge the one year anniversary of the 2015 floods. The team were received at Parliament House by Michael Johnsen last week.
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