Shellharbour City Council has been awarded NSW local government’s highest honour, winning the A R Bluett Memorial Award. The prestigious prize, awarded annually since 1945, is considered the pinnacle in local government recognition.
Shellharbour City Council was selected against 15 Councils in the ‘City and Regional Councils’ category at the Local Government NSW Annual Conference in Liverpool tonight (Tuesday 15 October, 2019). The prize is awarded to the Council judged to be the most progressive in NSW in the past 12 months and takes into consideration all aspects of Council’s operation.
The award is recognition that a Council is achieving excellent results in delivering progress and value to the community. It recognises Council’s commitment to strategic planning, financial sustainability, innovation, continuous improvement and community engagement to understand and deliver on local aspirations and expectations.
“We have demonstrated courageous leadership, responsiveness, responsibility and care for our community… a shining example of how commitment, teamwork, innovation and integrity can transform a city.”
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba
Mayor Marianne Saliba said she was enormously proud of all Councillors and staff.
“To win this award in our 160th anniversary year of becoming a local government area is something very special. The change this Council has undergone during that time is incredible,” Cr Saliba said.
“I would like to thank my fellow Councillors and all staff for their contribution to winning the 2019 A R Bluett Memorial award and congratulate them on a job well done.
“Importantly, I also thank the many community members, community groups and associations that work with Council. We could not have achieved our success without the broad support of the community we serve”.
Cr Saliba, a lifelong Shellharbour City resident, said she had witnessed and experienced the evolution and maturing of the local government area.
“It has been truly remarkable. We are forging a new identity, bridging our dual personas as one of NSW’s oldest local government areas and newest cities. We embrace our entire community, from those whose roots in Shellharbour go back generations to newcomers attracted by our stunning environment and enviable housing opportunities.
“What has not changed is the spirit of our residents and the strength of our community. It is a genuine honour and privilege to be Mayor of Shellharbour City,” she said.
Cr Saliba said Council’s success in rebuilding over the past eight years after a period of administration and surviving the threat of amalgamation was particularly inspiring.
“Of course, our achievements have not come without challenges. Eleven years ago, Shellharbour Council was placed under administration after the Council of the day was dismissed.
“Under my leadership and with the support of Councillors and the help of the staff, we made the difficult decision to apply for and gain a Special Rate Variation. With the support of our community, this decision set the organisation on a financially sustainable path for the future.
“Not long after this, we faced another challenge when the State Government proposed to merge us with Wollongong City Council. We fought that merger with everything we had – and so did our community.
“This was a terribly difficult time for staff, councillors and residents. Yet our community rallied. They believed in this city and its unique identity. They stood with Council and fought for Shellharbour.”
However, Cr Saliba said that like all challenging experiences, this testing time offered an opportunity to learn.
“We needed to improve our infrastructure renewal programs and we needed to improve our operational expenditure to ensure we lived within our means. Not only have we regained our equilibrium, we have transformed to become an exceptional example of financial sustainability and progressive planning,” Cr Saliba said
“One of the biggest ticks of approval came when the Audit Office of NSW officially recognised Council’s excellent financial management. We were one of only five NSW Councils – and the only regional Council – to meet all areas of an assessment designed to strengthen the system of local government.
“Our Council is now delivering infrastructure development that promotes sustainable and planned growth, while delivering many programs to protect and enhance our natural environment.
“I give my sincere thanks and congratulations to our General Manager, Carey McIntyre. The decisions of the Council are all underpinned by structural and cultural change implemented by him,” she said.
“The achievements of the last year are a culmination of the transformation of our Council and the city we serve.
Shellharbour City Council General Manager, Carey McIntyre
General Manager Carey McIntyre, who also grew up in Shellharbour City, said the award was testament to Council’s dedication to continual improvement.
“The achievements of the last year are a culmination of the transformation of both our Council and the city we serve. A reform program touching every part of the organisation has driven the changes inside our walls. Our new values guide how we work and the observable shift in our culture flows out to our community,” Mr McIntyre said.
Council’s consistent achievements were the result of long-term vision, excellent project planning, dedication, expertise and commitment, as well as a Council that works with the executive and staff to achieve for the Community, he said.
“This is something we do extremely well here at Shellharbour City Council. We are delivering the vision of our community, while ensuring they are actively participating in decision-making processes affecting their future, through undertaking Council activities within a clear framework of strategic planning, policies, procedures and service standards.”
In 2018/19 Council spent more than $19m on new projects, each catering for population growth, improving public safety or providing an environmental benefit. An additional $18m was spent on renewal projects for existing assets. Council has increased its capital renewal spend by an average of 14% over the last five years.
Mr McIntyre said there had been exponential growth in Council’s capital expenditure during this time, from $15m in 2014/15 to approximately $27m in 2018/19.
“Burgeoning development across the LGA, particularly in the city’s rapidly-growing western areas, has also led to major growth in developer-contributed assets, increasing the value of maintainable assets by approximately $20 million in the last year alone.
“The last 12 months has seen the delivery of landmark capital works projects, each realising a significant component of the Delivery Program within the Community Strategic Plan (CSP).
“We are achieving all this in partnership with our community, which is expected to swell to 87,000 by 2036. Our robust CSP articulates the journey our residents are taking with us.
“While winning the A R Bluett Award reaffirms we are solidly on the right path, we cannot and will not become complacent. Council is committed to powering into the future,” Mr McIntyre said.
Award-winning Council projects include:
• Shellharbour City Museum – Museums and Galleries NSW Imagine Award for Best New Build in the ‘Capacity Building, Capital & Sustainability Programs’ category.
• Shellharbour City Library – Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Public Library Design Awards.
• Shellharbour Civic Centre – public architecture prize in the 2019 New South Wales Architecture Awards.
• Dunmore Resource Recovery Centre was named as one of the top two facilities in the Australian Landfill and Transfer Station Awards.
A R Bluett Memorial Award
The A R Bluett Memorial Award has been awarded annually since 1945, contested each year by councils in NSW who would like to be recognised as being the most progressive in the state.
Entry is open to all NSW councils irrespective of size or resources. The Awards Trustees encourage NSW councils to enter this prestigious Award and are interested in all aspects of council operations and services.
Who was Albert Robert Bluett?
Albert Robert Bluett was an outstanding figure in Local Government, serving as the Secretary and Solicitor to the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW for 30 years.
He was the authority on Local Government law, and his opinion was respected by the legal profession and ministers of the crown. He helped to write the Local Government Act of 1919.
Following Bluett’s death in April 1944, the councils of NSW subscribed to a fund as a permanent memorial to his work. This money funds the bronze plaques, awarded to the winning councils each year. His legacy also lives on through ‘Bluett Local Government Handbook’ often referred to as the Local Government bible.
How is it judged?
There are three honorary Trustees/Judges. At the end of each financial year, the Trust invites councils to submit an entry. Councils detail their achievements, using statistical information and other evidence of progress. All entries are judged independently and objectively by each Trustee. They then meet to deliberate on their findings and select councils who may be shortlisted for inspection and presentations.