At the May meeting of Council two key plans for reconciliation and disability inclusion were adopted, the decision was made to recognise boxer Dave Sands and grants were awarded to community groups. Arrangements for the forthcoming by-election and the significant impact of rising costs were also discussed.
Local Government by-election
Despite noting the disappointment of some Councillors in the situation in which the Shire finds itself in facing a by-election to elect new Councillors, Council agreed to enter into an arrangement with the NSW Electoral Commission to administer the election.
The by-election will fill all the vacancies that occur due to the NSW Surprme Court order to voide the results of the Councillor election held on 4 December 2021.
Council antitcipates having the date of the by-election confirmed in the coming weeks.
Grants for outstanding community projects
Council has awarded a grants to a number of community groups based on a competitive assessment criteria. The projects that were awarded grants were:
- South West Rocks Community Dune Care – Weed Eradication – $5,000
- Bellbrook School of Arts Community Hall – Hall Upgrade – $2,000
- Upper Macleay District Rodeo Association – Refrigerator – $2,000
- Kempsey Showground Association – Tables and Seating – $2,000
- Rotary Club of Kempsey West – Gazebo – $1,639
Reconciliation Action Plan
Following a welcome to country given in Dhanggati, the language of the Dunghutti and Thungguti people, Council took the historic move to adopt their first Reconciliation Action Plan.
There are four levels to a formal Reconciliation Action Plan, with the first being the reflect level. This document represents Council’s formal commitment to reconciliation and to following the steps set out by Reconciliation Australia on this journey.
In adopting the plan, Council noted the extensive internal and external engagement taken to develop the Plan and the actions already undertaken by Council in a range of areas to progress reconciliation. The artwork of local Aborginal artist Steve McLeod and the words of Uncle Bob Smith that appear in the document were highlighted as being important to share with the community.
Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022-2025
A new Disability Inclusion Action Plan has been adopted for the shire outlining the actions Council will take in that time to improve inclusivity and accessibility. The Plan was developed in collaboration with people with disability, carers, friends and family and service providers. The plan aims to:
- Increasing positive attitudes & behaviours towards people with disability
- Making Kempsey Shire more accessible, inclusive & liveable
- Increasing meaningful education & employment for those with disability
- Improving access to Council’s services through better systems & processes
Councillors noted the inspiring stories contained in the document told by local people with disability of living in the Kempsey Shire and the barriers they face accessing everyday services.
Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage project
The Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage project is a proposed 600MW ‘off river’ development located on private land near the Macleay River between Armidale and Kempsey.
While the project is not directly in the shire, the proximity and impacts mean it is important that Council continues to monitor the project and remain aware of both the positive and negative impacts on the community.
Council has determined to advocate or advise on behalf of the community with regards to:
- Local and regional road access
- Water security and quality
- Amenity of the community
- Public health
- Economic activity, including local employment readiness and training
- Local and regional resources
- Aboriginal heritage and culture
- Natural environment
Council will provide a submission to the Department of Planning & Environment when the Environmental Impact Statement is publicly exhibited.
Operational Plan 2021-22 progress report
Council discussed its progress in delivering the major infrastructure projects outlined in the 2021-22 annual budget, acknowledging that some of the projects will not be completed on time due to overwhelming external factors including floods, COVID and the recent supply chain issues and cost rises.
The biggest changes to the Operational Plan have been in the area of capital expenditure. Notably a $23 million reduction in spending due to projects that have been significantly delayed due to wet weather, in addition to the multiple flood events. Many of these projects will be moved into the 2022-23 financial year. It was noted that there is significant frustration in the staff due to weather preventing work from being done and the ensuing public anger.
The supply chain and inflation pressures have also seen significant increases in the costs of infrastructure projects that have been completed this year. The general manager articulated the sort of cost increases faced since January 2022:
- 20% concrete
- 35% reinforcement
- 15% metal roofing
- 40% strucutural steel
- 30% copper cabling
- 60% glazing
- 16% aluminium for windows
Rental Assessment and Rebate
Council owns or manages a variety of land parcels upon which community facilities have been built and owns buildings which it leases out to provide a commercial return to council.
A new Rental Assessment and Rebate procedure was adopted in order to provide an equitable, transparent, and accountable management framework for determining rental assessment and rebates for council-owned and council-managed properties.
Voluntary Planning Agreement Maxus Gardens, 334-356 Gregory Street, South West Rocks
A proposed planning agreement was authorised for public notification which facilitates the funding or environmental maintenance and management work in the South West Rocks locality by the developer of Maxus Gardens.
The agreement sees the developer pay for the rehabilitation of 8 ha of land at Boyters Lane, the implementation of a community education and awareness strategy and the ongoing management and maintenance of the works.
Council noted that this development pre-dates the biobanking and biodiversity offset scheme as well as the angst that would be felt in the South West Rocks community when clearing occurred on the site. The contribution the developer is making to local environmental projects was highlighted as an example of the trade-off between the environment and development.