Wodonga Council’s year in review

The year 2021 was a unique 12 months.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our city greatly and we were in and out of lockdowns throughout the year.

The pandemic meant council venues closed and reopened throughout the year and many of council’s staff worked remotely for months on end.

Our organisation pulled through the tough times and was able to deliver council events where we could and even opened Hyphen in August.

Read on as we recap the year that was 2021.

January

Lindsay Hanchett is named Wodonga’s Citizen of the Year for 2021.

Lindsay is best known for his annual co-ordination of the Wodonga Carols by Candlelight for the past 17 years. Lindsay has taken the carols, which are a highlight and bring plenty of joy to the community, to new heights including the introduction of proper staging and changes to the funding and donations to make the event one of the largest in the region.

Although Lindsay enjoys putting the carols together, the event has seen its challenges including grasshoppers, rain, smoke, electrical storms, high temperatures as well as the pandemic last year. However, Lindsay has persevered to make the event a highlight of the year.

Lindsay has also been actively involved in the Wodonga Brass Band. He was awarded the Bill Youngson Memorial Trophy in 2000 for the most dedicated band member. He was president of the brass band from 2002 to 2011. He is the current treasurer. He was made a Life Member in 2005.

In recognising the challenges posed by this time, the Wodonga Australia Day selection panel decided to award the Citizen of the Year category but not to select a Young Citizen or Community Organisation.

January

Works begin on Baranduda Fields with soil testing taking place ahead of the start of stage 1 of the multi-year project.

The site’s master plan has also been reviewed and updated following environmental and flood modelling surveys undertaken late last year.

The updated plan allows the council to better optimise the whole site, as well as ensuring the environmental benefits of the precinct are retained and incorporated with the use of the sporting fields.

The main changes for stage one include moving the main entry and roadway, reconfiguration of the car parks and moving the soccer precinct further west. The tennis, lawn bowls, athletics track and highball facility have also been moved and the criterion circuit removed while further investigation is undertaken into the management of the wetlands.

The nationally significant Sloane’s Froglet (Crinia sloanei) can be found in the wetlands area of the site. The Sloane’s Froglet is a small, ground-dwelling frog distinguished by its repetitive call.

February

Wodonga receives $1.4 million in funding from the Australian Government’s Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program for five projects across the municipality.

Upgrades, expansion and improvements at Kelly Park Birallee Park, Wodonga Racecourse and Belvoir Park will take place with this additional funding.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Dixon said the projects put forward under the program will see a range of projects delivered across the municipality, benefiting a broad range of residents, visitors and community groups.

The projects put forward and funded under the Local Road and Community Infrastructure program will see a range of projects delivered across our municipality, benefiting a broad range of residents, visitors and community groups.

The additional funding for Kelly Park will enable stage one and two of this project to be delivered simultaneously and include new female-friendly facilities, two additional changes rooms, a first aid room, public amenities, canteen and store room.

Birallee Park will fund part of stage two of the outdoor turf and synthetic cricket nets, a new access roadway and landscaping.

The $306,950 in funding for the delivery of Belvoir Park stage two – an extension of the play area including elements to cater for a broader range children.

A new accessible toilet block will be built at Wodonga Racecourse and Showground precinct.

Funding for the Birallee Park Pump Track – of which stage one opened early last year – will fund stage two of the track, a duplication of the track, doubling its size, and include a shade structure, additional seating, water bubbler and landscaping.

March

Wodonga Council and AlburyCity once again present Upstream – a mix of 33 events, activities and workshops that were delivered in a COVID-safe format.

March

Street artist Kasper is painting Wodonga one wall at a time and in the process bringing the city to life.

His latest creations include the rear wall of Mahoney’s Newsagency and the DeliBean Cafe wall on the corner of Beechworth Rd and Wilson St.

As a self-taught painter and designer, Kasper has painted a sunflower design on the Delibean Cafe wall while Mahoney’s Newsagency has a striking Murray Cod. The Murray Cod was painted as part of the Upstream festival, which begins on Friday, March 5.

“I thought I would do a huge Murray cod because we are right next to the Murray River,” Kasper said.

“The reaction has been pretty cool so far. A lot of people have been really hyped on it and happy. There’s been no bad reactions.”

April

We met former Army cargo specialist Dale Weber who wants to help his community, in particular veterans in the Wodonga community.

Dale, who makes wooden military-style silhouette cutouts, is urging other veterans who are struggling to come and join him.

The Baranduda resident makes the cutouts as a reminder to the community that ANZAC Day is not just a public holiday but has a special significance to Australia.

“I just have different cutouts that mean something to myself, mainly, and my wife,” he said.

“They are just about sharing the spirit that ANZAC Day is not just a public holiday. It’s a celebration for those that have lost their lives to gain our freedom.

“I would like to help other veterans … you know come around, have a coffee, sit down, make them, have a chat and you know, we can pump some of these out.

“It’s just a get-together as a little working bee but actually get something achieved from it. I am all about helping veterans and helping ourselves.”

May

We were at home taking part in lockdown activities with our families and jumping on zoom for work and a social life.

June

Wodonga Council adopted its Draft Budget for 2021-2022 and the Council Plan 2021-2025 at the June council meeting.

Following a zero rate rise last year, the draft budget includes a 1.5 per cent rate rise, which means that on average, households face an increase cost of about 1 dollar per week.

This proposed rate rise is in line with the Victorian Government rate cap.

June

Wodonga Council adopted the Revenue and Rating Plan 2021-2022 to 2024-2025 at the June council meeting.

It is a new plan required under the Local Government Act 2020.

The Local Government Act 2020 requires councils to develop a four-year Revenue and Rating Plan, which forms part of the Integrated Strategic Planning and Reporting Framework.

A revenue and rating plan provides a clear explanation of decisions made by a council in implementing their revenue and rating practices.

The Revenue and Rating Plan 2021-2022 to 2024-2025 has been predominantly developed on the content of the current Wodonga Rating Strategy 2019.

July

Wodonga Council employee Jessica Zuber was named this year’s Coles Emergency Responder winner in the Heart Volunteer Awards.

When the young people’s library officer is not organising programs and events for the city’s library, she is often dedicating her time to the Chiltern SES.

This year she celebrates seven years with the important volunteer organisation, including four years as the unit controller.

“We have great people in the SES and it helps that it’s fun to be around these people, especially when we have training on at 7pm and no one wants to go out in the middle of winter,” she said.

Ms Zuber’s hard work and commitment, often dedicating more than 10 hours a week to the role and recruiting many volunteers over the years, has resulted in a state award.

The Weekly Times, in conjunction with the Powercor Country Festival, named Ms Zuber as this year’s Coles Emergency Responder winner in the Heart Volunteer Awards.

August

Wodonga’s newest community space Hyphen – Wodonga Library Gallery opened to the public on August 2.

The opening of the $12 million facility follows an 18-month build and the temporary location of the library to High St.

Hyphen features three main galleries – Artspace Gallery, Playspace Gallery and Community Gallery – as well as the Hallway Gallery. It hosts the full library service and features three meeting rooms; the Community Studio overlooking the courtyard suitable for workshops, meetings and presentations; the Creative Studio for resident artists; Tech Studio and Sound Studio; and, a Sculpture Terrace.

The name Hyphen reflects the building’s twin purposes of art and literature and its amazing architecture and dash-like shape – the signature cantilever over the building’s main entrance.

The gallery spaces launch the Hyphen program with a captivating and intriguing opening offering.

September

A metal bonsai tree and a bronze bird top off a new sculpture for Hyphen.

Weighing almost 300kg, the mixed media sculpture titled ‘That’s Life’ was created by Wodonga artist Ken Raff, who produced the Porta sculpture on the Lincoln Causeway.

Mr Raff is thrilled with the finished product that stands almost three metres tall on the outdoor Sculpture Terrace.

“Being a predominately steel fabricated sculpture, there was a lot of steel cutting involved using both a plasma cutter and an angle grinder with a cutting disc,” he said.

“Once the shapes were cut, they were then welded into place using a mig welder.

“To clean the welds and edges up an angle grinder was used, first with a grinding disc and then finally with a wire brush.

“The form takes shape from the base plate up to the body of the work and then finally the spiral was shaped and fabricated.”

October

Wodonga Council helped deliver the Victorian Government’s Seniors Festival in October.

The festival returned as an online event due to COVID-19.

November

Stage two of the Birallee Park Pump Track is complete

Works included a second track which is a mirror of the existing track.

Additional seating and a water bubbler has been installed alongside additional landscaping and shade.

The two tracks side by side will naturally separate the beginners from the more experienced riders.

It will also provide the opportunity for racing type activities and events, as well as provide a pathway for young riders in the area to move into the local BMX or mountain bike clubs.

November

Improvements to the Belvoir Dog park are now complete.

There’s now a separate section for quiet or timid dogs, the gate has been changed to be closer to the existing path, and there’s additional seating.

November

Wodonga Council Chief Executive Officer Mark Dixon announces he will be leaving the organisation after almost three years.

He tendered his resignation to the Mayor. Mr Dixon said it had been a great privilege to serve the city.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as the council CEO. I think council does an amazing job in servicing the many diverse needs of our community, often in challenging circumstances,” he said.

“We change people’s lives and make a genuine difference every day.

“Our city has made tremendous transformational progress despite bushfires, storms, COVID-19 and even an earthquake.

“I have been very fortunate in being offered a CEO role with an international organisation which presents a great opportunity for me, at my stage in life, to do something quite unique and different.

“I leave behind a very strong, capable organisation and leadership team with a concise and focused strategic Council Plan in place – our city is poised for significant new growth, post-COVID.”

November

We did it Wodonga.

The COVID vaccination tracker showed we officially surpassed 95 per cent mark for first dose and fully vaccinated. What an achievement.

December

Ten Wodonga Council staff members receive the National Emergency Medal for their support to the 2019-2020 bushfires. The staff members received their medal at Wodonga Council’s all-staff forum.

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