This month marks the fourth anniversary of the merger between Dubbo City and Wellington Councils. There certainly has been a lot of challenges merging the two organisations, but one thing is certain, the region is in much better condition four years on than what it was pre-merger.
I have lost track of the amount of new facilities and infrastructure that has been opened by the new council.
When the merger happened back in 2016, a lot of people were left with a feeling that their identity was taken away, that their voice was a lot smaller in the scheme of things. This was particularly the case in Wellington, where the junior partner of the merger was largely concerned that the much larger Dubbo City would overwhelm their smaller shire. This council has worked hard to avoid that.
There is no point ignoring the multiple challenges that this merger has created. The truth is, we have a huge infrastructure backlog that needs to be addressed. The council area has almost 1500 kilometres of unsealed roads that need work and other essential utilities and assets are simply worn down and are in need of an injection of funds.
The relationship between the local government sector and the state government continues to remain strained. However it is fair to say the work of the current Local Government Minister has gone a long way at repairing trust issues between the two spheres of government at a state-wide level.
The plus sides of this merger have certainly been the amount of recreational and economic investment that has gone into the new council area. I have lost count of the amount of openings and funding announcements that have happened so far in my term as mayor. An adventure playground, massive water infrastructure, new ovals, playgrounds, a cycling track, sporting clubhouses, the Wellington pool, and funds for tourist attractions like the Wellington Caves and Old Dubbo Gaol. These are some of the openings that come to mind, and that's not to mention everything that is coming, like a massive redevelopment of our CBD and riverbank precinct.
If there were two achievements of this current elected council I would like to highlight, the first is the harmonious way the councillors work together. Don't get me wrong - there are a lot of disagreements. However, the respectful and courteous dialogue between the elected councillors has been frankly the best in more than a generation in local government in our area. Gone are the days of massive stoushes and fighting in the media.
Secondly, I am extremely proud of the new council's economic management. Earlier in this term, it was reported that the new council was able to save $10 million dollars from identifying ways to do things cheaper. This included going to tender for things like insurance and even changing our telecommunications system saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The future for Dubbo Regional Council is bright. It is essential that good will and assertive lobbying efforts continue to make us financially viable with a strong social conscience in the years ahead.