Meeting with Michael Johnsen
Dungog Shire Council General Manager (GM), Coralie Nichols, and I met with Michael Johnsen last week to discuss amongst other things our recent meeting with the NSW Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey MP.
Following the meeting with Minister Pavey, Michael has strongly supported our bid to the NSW Deputy Premier and Premier to assist Dungog Shire Council with our infrastructure backlog ($16M for bridges and $21M for roads). He is also proposing to lobby the State Government for funding to complement the proposed SRV increase, which would be in addition to the required roads and bridges funding.
I will be having further conversations with Michael to work out the detail of this proposal and I will keep you updated. Michael expressed concern that the State Government couldn’t just keep bailing us out.
I made it very clear that we are asking our community to do a considerable amount of heavy lifting with the proposed Special Rates Variation (SRV) and that there is a clear community expectation that the State Government needed to come to the party too.
I explained that Council is aiming to become financially sustainable over the next 7 to 10 years and that the SRV is only part of the approach being considered by Council to obtain this outcome.
In addition to the SRV Council is looking at new sources of revenue other than rates (interestingly Muswellbrook Council just purchased a shopping centre in Seven Hills to do exactly this); seeking new grant opportunities (our recent successes are contained in this column); reviewing our assets to make sure they are working for us; reviewing our Section 94 Plan funded by developer contributions with a view to releasing funds for much needed projects; preparing a rural lands strategy to inform better decisions on highest and best land use for agriculture purposes and to assist with planning for the more marginal land for other uses; and conducting efficiency reviews and shared service proposals for a number of Council services.
Meeting with Scot MacDonald
The GM and I had a meeting with Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, and Director Hunter Regional Coordination Branch, NSW Department Premier and Cabinet, Stephen Wills.
Scot has a meeting with the Premier coming up and has promised to put Dungog on the agenda for that meeting.
Scot and Stephen have been working with various State Government departments to come up with appropriate and tailored solutions for Dungog Shire, particularly to assist us with our roads and timber bridges funding.
I also spoke to Scot about the need to recognise the contribution the community and council are making, and we need the State Government to contribute now while we have the momentum.
Scot said he did recognise the efforts of council and the community and will also take this to the Premier.
Meeting with Martin Rush
Our meeting with Martin Rush proceeded despite an apology from the NSW Shadow Roads Minister, Jodi McKay. Martin, in his capacity as the State Labor Candidate for the Upper Hunter, met with the Cr Jan Lyon, the GM, Executive Manager Assets and Infrastructure, Steve Hitchens, and myself.
We discussed the financial support that that the Labor Party could possibly provide Dungog.
Again, I clearly explained to Martin that Dungog Council was looking for a hand up and not a hand out and that it was important that the NSW State Government be a co-contributor in this space.
I will provide more details as discussions with Martin progress.