From the mayor's desk: Local government conference, Hunter Bio-Valley and bridges infrastructure backlog

Cr Tracy Norman reports on the latest in council news.
Cr Tracy Norman reports on the latest in council news.

Local government conference

General manager, Coralie Nichols, and I attended the Local government NSW Conference in Albury last week. I attended workshops aimed at legal responsibilities of elected members and the draft Model Code of Conduct, as well as professional development for elected members.

The Premier addressed us on the banks of the Murray River, which I must say would take some beating as a venue. She spoke extensively on regional issues and was very engaging and engaged.

Much of the next day was taken up voting on the 100 motions that were put up by various NSW Councils. These motions were to decide the focus of LG NSW policy and lobbying priorities for the coming year. I will collate the resolutions that have relevance to us as a rural council in my report for the next Ordinary Meeting of Council. If you would like the full record of decisions, please visit the LG NSW website.

We heard from Minister for Local Government and for Environment and Heritage, Gabrielle Upton, and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) President, David O’Loughlin, who outlined ALGA’s policy priorities for the year. One of the key messages from ALGA is All Politics is Local, something for the entire community to keep in mind in the lead up to the forthcoming State elections when you are contacting our local members and relevant ministers. We also heard from Federal Shadow Minister for Local Government, Stephen Jones, and State Shadow Minister for Local Government, Peter Primrose (who attended the entire conference) as well as the Small Business Commissioner.

There were presentations on smart cities and towns around how to be ready for and embrace digital disruption, and LG NSW launched its Save our Recycling Campaign.

Hunter Bio-Valley

This was a forum held in Muswellbrook to discuss the concept of creating a Hunter Biovalley, based on models that are well-established in Europe. We were presented with concepts around food production (both high tech and more community based), bio-energy production, including an update on Dr Russell Reeves’ Ethtec project, the circular economy, which is around reuse and recycling, environmental management and remediation and bio-innovation. We made some fantastic contacts and heard some very exciting ideas around what can be done on both a local and regional level.

Council meeting

Council determined that the Draft DCP Part 3 Chapter 3 - Building Line Setbacks not go on public exhibition until a councillor workshop has been conducted to consider the implications of any changes and that we have considered the best way to communicate the proposal to the community for comment. Several Development Applications have been approved under delegated authority, including renovations and new house builds. Council acknowledged the retirement of three key personnel from the outdoor staff. Works Supervisor (Specialist Services), Ron Turner, Bridge Carpenter Team Leader, Peter Osmond, and Grader Operator, Jeff Windebank. Between them they have served 90 years on Council. I would like to add my personal gratitude to Ron, Peter and Jeff for their loyalty and commitment to Dungog Shire Council and to wish them all the best for the future.

Meeting with politicians

The GM and I will be meeting with State Local Member, Michael Johnsen, to follow up with him on our meeting with Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, last week.

We will also be meeting with Upper Hunter Labor Candidate, Martin Rush, Shadow Minister for Roads and for Transport, Jodi McKay, and Shadow Minister for Heritage, Penny Sharpe, to discuss our roads and bridges infrastructure backlog and alternatives for the Brig O’Johnson Bridge.