Mayor, deputy beg to differ

Dubbo's top two civic leaders are at odds about the strength of a key driver of the city's economy.

Dubbo mayor Mathew Dickerson was yesterday upbeat about development after the second-best result for at least the past six years, and reported signs of increased activity.

He provided assurances that Dubbo City Council was on the front foot to enable concrete to pour and hammers to pound, but the city's deputy mayor disagreed.

Cr Ben Shields said the city lacked "business optimism" and the council was not handling land development well.

The two experienced councillors made the comments after it was revealed the combined value of approvals rose to more than $126 million in 2012.

The result was largely on the back of the Kosseris family's $53.8 million Riviera Shopping Complex project, but the mayor was not inclined to "cherry-pick" approvals and ask what might have been without them.

The fact was that the council had approved more than $126 million in 2012, a 52 per cent increase from the previous year, Cr Dickerson said.

He highlighted that the jump came not just in the first full year after the gazettal of Dubbo's local environmental plan (LEP), but also after the council's "proactive" efforts to encourage development.

Among those he listed were engaging demographer Bernard Salt to provide a clearer picture of the future of Dubbo, hosting development forums each quarter and more.

The mayor recalled nearly all of the next stage in a residential estate in Dubbo's west had been sold, even before the ground works were finished.

"That is just one example where I have seen strong signs of development increasing - not slowing down," he said.

The council could not influence every factor, but his feeling was that Dubbo's economy was strong, certainly stronger than many other regional areas, he said.

"Council, without a doubt, is helping that," he said.

"Many investment advisers and magazines list Dubbo as one of the top three places to invest at the moment across the country."

Cr Shields saw more to change and every reason to do it.

"If business doesn't feel good about Dubbo, it won't grow in Dubbo," he said.

"It's important for council to start looking at ways to grow business optimism."

The LEP lacked retail opportunities and the council's residential development was not progressing satisfactorily, the deputy mayor said.

"A number of new councillors have confirmed my suspicions that ... we do need to go back to the drawing board with Keswick Estate," Cr Shields said.

"All this chasing the posh dollar is not working, we need to make sure the land is affordable for first homebuyers and workers."

Despite his criticisms, Cr Shields saw some brighter spots.

"With all that said, in past months especially since the election there has been a small lift in the optimism, but we've got a long way to go."

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