Bellingen Shire Council has received the greatest accolade a New South Wales Council can achieve by winning the Rural Category of the 2020 Local Government NSW A. R. Bluett Memorial Awards.
Bellingen Shire Council Mayor, Cr Dominic King, said “The A. R. Bluett Memorial Awards, which have been awarded annually since 1945, celebrate examples of exceptional achievement by progressive rural and regional/metropolitan councils that encourage and foster innovation and continuous improvement.”
“These awards are recognised as the pinnacle of local government achievement and I find it rewarding and exciting that our winning submission was selected amongst a competitive state-wide field of regional councils,” says Dominic.
“As the custodian of our Community Vision, Council has collaborated with our community to create a shared vision on how to sustainably manage growth in our Shire, maintain its natural beauty and uniqueness and remain a sustainable, inclusive, and connected community.”
Cr King said Bellingen Shire Council’s award submission detailed council and our community’s continued efforts and progress towards addressing the opportunities and challenges identified in the Shire’s Community Vision.
“The work of the council through initiatives such as values-based social research undertaken recently entitled “Why local government matters”, has allowed council to understand what really matters to our community, which is and will continue to underpin future strategic and operational planning.”
“Noting that our characteristics are our challenges, this year in particular has seen the culmination of outcomes around numerous initiatives built on a solid platform of progressive reform, delivering upon community aspiration and identified organisational imperatives to position it effectively as a sustainable organisation.”
A snapshot includes:
- The commissioning of an independent review of council’s finances which declared “It is our conclusion that Council’s long-term financial sustainability is tracking well. In particular, the improving technical efficiency, low levels of debt, prudent spending, and the steady improvement in asset condition all indicate that Council is doing an extraordinarily successful job in challenging conditions. The future looks bright for the residents of Bellingen Shire Council and they can have the utmost faith in the stewardship of council.”
- progressive implementation of the recommendations from the UTS’s Financial Sustainability Review to improve its long-term financial position
- securing council and grant funding to deliver community infrastructure projects valued at $11 million
- securing council and grant funding to deliver a $20 million investment in wastewater infrastructure
- major investment in water security infrastructure
- ongoing focus on sustainable development through the ‘Homes for our Future’ project
- investment in renewables to mitigate utility risk/cost and reduce emissions
- development of a biodiversity strategy and declaration of a climate emergency
- investment in automation and digital transformation through Envision IT corporate system replacement
- implementation of structural/process refinements emanating from a major service review
- implementation of major investment in essential infrastructure including a long term $29 millionbridge replacement program
- strategic asset management planning activities, including implementation of major investment in essential infrastructure including a long term $29 million bridge replacement program, the resurfacing of an additional 13 kilometres of poor condition sealed roads, the reconstruction of 2.2 kilometres of road that was in too poor a condition to reseal, the grading of 66 kilometres of our unsealed road network, reduction in load limited bridges, securing $4million in grant funding to progress replacement of high priority bridges, progression of the Aquifer study to inform the secure yield analysis assessments and development of the Councils Integrated Water Cycle Management Strategy to achieve water resilience.
- ongoing investment in community wellbeing through our Youth Hub
- active leadership in the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation
- development and resourcing of a deliberative approach to engagement.Cr King said “There is no doubt that the last 12 months of drought, bushfires, floods and the current pandemic crisis have certainly challenged us all and re-focussed our efforts to deal with the environmental, social and economic challenges our Shire faces now and into the future.”This has seen council provide training, financial and logistical support to coordinate local resources, inclusive of representatives from Council, local medical, emergency, Chambers of Commerce and community service providers, to implement sustainable community recovery, preparedness and resilience initiatives to ensure we remain a connected, sustainable, and creative community. In addition Council has brought to life engagement aspirations through facilitating the Bellingen Community Resilience Deliberative Panel, where members from our community were guided through discussions that featured background briefings and expert input to help panel members consider approaches to building community resilience in the Shire.
“As a finalist in the Bluett Award program we hosted a visit by A.R. Bluett Trust Chairman, Les McMahon and fellow Trustee Judges Mike Montgomery AM and Genia McCaffrey who conducted an inspection of our Shire, received presentations on our operations and services and had the opportunity to hear from some of our community members and partner organisations on the great work achieved within our community.”
“The Bluett Trustee’s visit was a great opportunity for Council’s team and our community alike to showcase achievements. As a community we have demonstrated what is possible when you harness the talent and skill of a small and committed team that are dedicated to working with our community to discover our Shire’s true potential.”