New Australians and big budget for Kempsey

Kempsey Shire Council

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A huge agenda for the June meeting of Council included the annual budget, a citizenship ceremony and moves to support the environment, help those impacted by the Toose Road landslip and to recognise our Aboriginal history.

Citizenship ceremony

On the packed agenda, the highlight was without a doubt witnessing 14 people embrace and pledge their loyalty to Australia at a citizenship ceremony.

The new Australians (12 adults and 2 children) come from countries including England, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Japan, Taiwan and New Zealand.

The Federal Government Member for Cowper, Pat Conaghan MP, participated in the ceremony which took place at 10.15am followed by a morning tea.

Council’s annual budget approved

Following substantial conversation on the hard work and extensive community engagement that has gone into development of the organisation’s planning instruments, the budget and plans in the Integrated Planning and Reporting suite were adopted.

The Operational Plan, which is essentially Council’s annual budget, includes the delivery of a $107 million capital works program in 2022-23 and the Delivery Program outlines the projects Council has planned for the next four years.

Councillors discussed many aspects of the budget at length, including:

  • The small number of management and director level staff compared to similar and small sized Councils around Australia.
  • The drastic reduction in services that would be necessitated by refusing a 2% rate rise while facing inflation above 4%.
  • The need for further financial prudence moving forward following successful reduction of council’s deficit in recent years.
  • Councillors considered a number of submissions regarding airport fees and ultimately resolved to apply the principles of users pays in line with expectations of Local Government, noting that Kempsey Airport is already a significant cost for the whole community.
  • The inaccurate belief among some in the community that Council is either permitted to direct all funds towards road repairs or that this would be an effective solution.
  • A further commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion among staff in the organisation.

The accompanying documents in the Integrated Planning and Reporting suite were also adopted and include:

  • Revenue Policy 2022-23;
  • Schedule of Fees and Charges 2022-23;
  • Rates Maps 2022-23;
  • Long Term Financial Plan 2022-
  • Workforce Management Plan 2022-26;
  • Strategic Asset Management Plan 2022-32; and
  • Digital Strategy.

Rates and annual charges

Council adopted the proposed rates and annual charges for the financial year commencing 1 July 2022.

All Councillors noted they had thought very hard on the decision to adopt the 2% increase in rates approved by Independent Pricing And Regulatory Tribunal, noting the current economic climate and its impact on residents. They chose to do so given that the figure represented a reasonable balance of those concerns with the duty to responsible financial management.

Mayoral and Councillor fees

Councillors discussed the recommendation from the Office of Local Government and adopted the recommended increase in fees as well as the addition of super annuation.

The fees payable to a Councillor for the 2022-23 financial year were agreed at $21,100, in accordance with s248 Local Government Act.

The fees payable to the Mayor for the 2022-23 financial year to were agreed at $46,040, in accordance with s249 Local Government Act.

Commencing on 1 July 2022, superannuation payments are also to be made to Councillors and the Mayor in accordance with s254B Local Government Act 1993.

Sustainability and resilience strategy

A timely item on the agenda after winning the Sustainability Award at the recent Macleay Valley Business Awards, Council agreed to place the draft Sustainability and Resilience Strategy on exhibition along with an action plan to guide implementation. This follows a substantial process of community engagement carried out in the drafting process.

Council will publicly exhibit the draft strategy for a period of 28 days, prior to reporting back to Council on submissions received and for adoption of the final strategy.

Support for landowners impacted by Toose Road landslip

Extensive damage has occurred to the road network because of flooding and heavy rainfall during the March 2022 flood events. This included a major landslip at Toose Road which has led to the isolation of properties.

Landowners and land managers are experiencing hardship because of this. Support to impacted landowners is being facilitated by Council recovery staff with the support of Resilience NSW.

A short-term access is being constructed to provide access to the isolated area and geotechnical investigations are underway to determine how the landslip may be repaired and alternative options are also being scoped in the event landslip repair is not feasible.

Council moved to apply the provisions within the Hardship Relief to Ratepayers Procedure for landowners impacted by the landslip on Toose Road, to monitor the situation with a view to considering further financial assistance for those properties whose legal and physical access is via the impacted length of Toose Road.

Cemetery services strategy

Following the recent public exhibition of the Kempsey Cemeteries – Strategy and Master Plan, Council adopted the strategy and master plans.

Kempsey Shire Council operates 11 cemeteries throughout the local government area. With increased regulation and legislative requirements, greater competition and changing burial preferences Council has developed a Cemetery Strategy to set the roadmap and framework that guides:

  • the cost-effective development of physical cemetery infrastructure that meets the needs of the community in a variety of ways
  • delivery of the associated services to enable the community and the broader industry to readily interact with the cemetery facilities.

Replacement of bridges over flood mitigation drains

Council agreed to support any property owners seeking to replace timber bridges on private land over flood mitigation drains on the Lower Macleay floodplain.

The support will take the form of waiving all Council-related development fees and charges which may include pre-lodgement meetings, development applications, advertising, certificates and inspections. If Council’s resourcing at the time allows, it will also undertake modelling of flood impacts based on the property owners’ proposal utilising the latest lower Macleay floodplain model to assist with submission requirements of the development application. This information will be placed on public exhibition for 28 days.

Use of Dhungutti language

Following a notice of motion from Councillor Alex Wyatt, Council discussed increasing the use of the Dunghutti language (in combination with English) in meetings as a means of delivering on the intentions of the Reconciliation Action Plan.

It was noted that there are alternative spellings of the language and the intent of the motion was to be respectful of the local language and Aboriginal people.

It was agreed that advice will be sought from community elders to discuss the extent and appropriateness of using a combination of English and Dunghutti language in the Acknowledgement of Country used by Council and in Council meetings.

Further that based on that advice Staff and Councillors will be provided with training in relevant Dunghutti language, Councillors and Council’s leadership team would use Dunghutti greeting words during Council business including Council meetings and Council would collaborate with primary schools in the Shire regarding Dunghutti language acitivities and videos.

Other matters considered by Council

Slim Dusty Centre

Council noted the progress made in negotiations with the Slim Dusty Foundation regarding the transfer of ownership and management of the Slim Dusty Centre and museum.

It was agreed to authorise the General Manager to finalise negotiations and enter into all legal agreements required to transfer the ownership and allow the future ongoing operation and management of the Slim Dusty Centre by Council.

Organisational Structure

Council endorsed the senior staff structure for organisation for the forthcoming term.

Mid North Coast High Performance Centre, South West Rocks – management agreement

Council authorised the General Manager to finalise negotiations and enter into a management agreement with the South West Rocks Country Club to operate the Mid North Coast High Performance Centre, South West Rocks for a period of five years with two further five year options.

Change of Council meeting date due to 2022 local government elections

The August ordinary meeting will now be held on Tuesday 30 August 2022, commencing at 9.00 am in the Council Chambers at 22 Tozer Street, West Kempsey, to accommodate the announcement of the results of the local government by-election.

Trial Bay Gaol Access Road inclusion into Arakoon National Park

Council agreed to advise the National Parks and Wildlife Service that they concur with the reservation of Trial Bay Gaol Access Road for inclusion in Arakoon National Park, while emphasising Council’s key interests in preservation of public and boating access from the location.

Inclusion of a public road into Limeburners Creek National Park

Council agreed to advise the National Parks and Wildlife Service in writing that it concurs with the reservation of part of unnamed public road R21297-1603 for inclusion in Limeburners Creek National Park.

Land acquisition for sewage pumping station – Gregory Street, South West Rocks

Council approved the acquisition of land that contains Council sewage pumping infrastructure in Gregory Street, South West Rocks.

Statement of cash and investments – June 2022

Council noted the June statement.

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