This year has been a very busy time for Mildura with many great initiatives and changes.
The Council welcomed our new CEO Sarah Philpott who has been an outstanding choice. Sarah has some amazing talents and has pulled the Council and the executive together to be an even more cohesive team. We are very pleased to have her on board.
We have seen some great developments in Mildura this year including obtaining funding for the commencement of the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct which will be this community’s largest infrastructure project to date and will be of great benefit to the community. Of course we don’t have all the funds to complete stage 2 as yet, so that is a fight we will carry into next year.
Our grants funding team has had amazing success, in some cases obtaining grants from the same fund two and three times over which is unprecedented and described as the Makybe Diva of grant funding success.
The MRCC has supported and welcomed the Aviation Alliance Pilot School which currently has over 130 student pilots in training and are looking to increase their facilities both at the airport and elsewhere in town. They are also in negotiation with La Trobe University to develop a degree course in Aviation and with SuniTAFE in relation to a Flight Attendant Academy. The school is already delivering millions of dollars into our community and has seen many families move into town including pilot instructors, engineers and support staff. The potential for this enterprise is enormous.
New developments this year in Mildura also include a new venture into hemp cultivation on a local farm property and a medical cannabis facility is under construction at another location, albeit on hold at the moment due to market pricing issues.
The Weilong winery had its first vintage and is now expanding and McGuigans wines have built a new automated bottling plant in Merbein that can process twelve thousand bottles of wine in an hour, requiring transport companies in Mildura to gear up to handle the additional load.
We had two major solar installations commence operations and another is still being built and a new almond processing plant is approved to be built near Hattah.
We’ve had numerous large commercial developments approved in and around town including a new Holden dealership, some innovative inner city apartment buildings, the new MASP building and of course a brand new mega-estate which will have some 400 homes and a retail development, and this has just commenced construction. We also approved another subdivision in Koorlong which will see that town expand significantly.
Council have approved the next stage of the riverfront development which will see us applying for a $10.5m grant from government to create what we are calling a Village Square on the riverfront, which will be a collection of buildings around a central open space to be used for functions, community events and commercial enterprise. This will increase activation of the riverfront and make it even more usable for the community. We also expanded the CCTV system at the riverfront to protect the community and council assets and reduce hoon behaviour. Council also recently approved a winery and licensed function centre in Merbein.
We’ve continued investigations to progress our Motorsports precinct and we have formally joined with the North West Rail Alliance in support of advocating for passenger rail.
Council has commissioned a full transport study including passenger rail and all other transport needs in the community to fully understand and evidence base the need for passenger rail and other transport needs.
In our more remote areas we have approved and commenced work on the Murrayville Library and we have approved funding for the first part of the Murrayville wetlands project. We also approved a war memorial project in Outen Park Underbool.
We have adopted the Ouyen Inc. community plan, which includes exciting projects such as an intermodal hub and we’ve provided a grant to support their current work to develop a local Ouyen gym.
Council have advocated on behalf of the community to change planning rules around the development of small blocks that were locked out of development by Planning Amendment C89 and we have also lobbied government for changes to the Planning Act to allow for greater flexibility in the area of on- and off-farm accommodation. We await an outcome of those efforts but expect a decision soon.
We have also lobbied the Federal Government in relation to access to legal farm workers and the development of a farm worker visa which has seen the Federal Government provide a $20m expansion to the Seasonal Worker Program which will allow more Pacific Islanders into Australia to work on the farms here in Mildura and elsewhere.
Council Staff and Councillors worked hard to develop and ultimately approved a new rating strategy which will provide a more flexible strategy that is able to be altered as needed, to deliver a greater level of fairness to ratepayers. We have also been successful in lobbying other council representative groups including the Municipal Association Victoria to call for a review into the rating system and provide a fairer system for all.
We have, together with our State and Federal members, lobbied government to support our drought-affected farmers, resulting in a $1m grant from the Federal Government which we will use to support farmers through infrastructure projects, and $670,000 from the State Government which we are using to provide Millewa farmers with rate relief.
We are also providing personnel and equipment to clear sand drifts from roadways and repair damaged roads in the Millewa. Our efforts have not stopped there of course and we are still seeking additional funding to provide even more support, including turning our attention to some Mallee Track farmers who are also in need of support.
We have adopted a strong position on water and have called for a Royal Commission into the management of the Murray Darling basin and have gained the support of other Council representative bodies in that call.
We have entered into a power purchasing agreement as a consortium of over 40 Councils to ensure we not only use renewable energy sources but that we also reduce the cost of our power consumption for the benefit of the community. Speaking on environmental matters, we have also supported the introduction of a Food Organics Garden Organics service, and started to prepare for implementation of the three-bin system in July 2020.
Of course these are only some of the things we have done throughout the year. There are many more initiatives and projects we have been involved in and they are too numerous to mention here.
Suffice to say, Mildura Rural City Council has been working very hard to make Mildura a great place to live and will continue to do so.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the hard working staff of the MRCC who have never ceased to impress with their work ethic and their desire to improve their own community. And to my fellow Councillors who have fought for issues they believe in and have made some very wise and occasionally difficult decisions.
And last but by no means least I would like to thank my fellow citizens in this district. There are many positive people in our community who have shown great support for Mildura Council and we greatly appreciate it.
I hope you all have a great Christmas and enjoy this time with your family and friends, and above all, stay safe.
Cr Simon Clemence