Dubbo mayor Ben Shields says his biggest disappointment of the past 12 months is not being able to deliver a rehabilitation facility for the city.
Cr Shields delivered his annual mayor's report at the September Dubbo Regional Council meeting.
He used the speech to cover the council highlights across the year, as well as talking about the need for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation and detox facility.
When looking at the next 12 months, Cr Shields said his biggest focus would be on the economy.
This is what he had to say:
The last 12 months, just like the last three years, has again seen our council outshine the rest of the state in productivity, growth and harmony. We as councillors and staff of Dubbo Regional Council strive to achieve these record feats not for ourselves - but for the greater good of our entire regional community.
Despite a record drought, a 1-in-100 year pandemic and the continuing challenges of merging two communities into a single local government area; the health of your council - and community - remains at a high. However, we must acknowledge there is far more to be done. The last 12 months has seen some particularly proud moments in the infrastructure growth of the region.
We have witnessed the opening of the brand new, state-of-the-art, regional cycling facility that is the envy of other regional centres. We are now on the brink of a new era of cycling in the region that will see not only the growth of cycling as a sport - but the new facility will attract thousands of people to our region for events each and every year, which will lead to a considerable economic boost.
Our LED street lighting rollout has certainly been noticed by the rest of the state. Other cities are copying Dubbo's approach. The saving of at least $700,000 a year in electricity costs as well as being substantially more environmentally friendly is a credit to this Council's strategic direction. Councillor Dayne Gumley's original notice of motion calling for an audit of our lighting started not just a safety upgrade, but set the ball rolling for these significant electricity cost savings as well as achieving a win for environmental sustainability.
Gross pollutant traps
Talking environment, the expansion of Dubbo's Gross Pollutant Traps (GPTs) is an election promise that is being kept. The city can be extremely proud that right this very minute, Australia's largest GPT is being installed in West Dubbo next to the Serisier Bridge. Councillor John Ryan shares my concern for river health. I must thank Councillor Ryan for his advocacy and enthusiasm for the project.
We are seeing real results in our Open for Business policy. The development of the former RAAF base is finally starting to take shape. That issue alone is a great example of the difference between this council - and previous councils - that failed in having a fair approach to development and growth. In the coming weeks and months, multiple announcements in monumental and exciting new businesses and developments for the RAAF base will be made.
Our residential land sales across the city remain one of the strongest in NSW. One example of particular note is the council-owned Keswick Estate, where recently 59 lots were sold in a matter of a few months. Never before in our city's history have so many residential housing lots been sold so quickly.
Keswick is a testament to this council's Open for Business attitude. Councillors would recall our change in direction for Keswick Estate, where we stepped back from directly marketing the estate ourselves and had the business foresight to appoint a local real estate agent to market our product in a way only the private sector can do. The old days of council only being able to sell a few Keswick blocks a year are now over.
Talking Keswick, we finally signed on the dotted line for a land swap between the Dubbo RSL Club and ourselves for Council to own the former Dubbo City Bowling Cub site while the RSL would own a large portion of Keswick Estate in order to develop a satellite RSL club for South East Dubbo. This RSL development is destined to add vital amenities to this growing area of Dubbo.
Added to that, now that council takes control of the bowling club site, we can ensure that this historically significant area is maintained in an aesthetically complimentary design to the rest of Victoria Park.
No 1 oval
And let us not forget that the acquisition of the Dubbo City Bowling Club site is not our only achievement for Victoria Park. The new larger Number 1 oval and state-of-the-art modern club house has been welcomed by local sporting groups with great enthusiasm. Like our brand new cycling facility, these significant upgrades at Number 1 oval will make our region even more competitive in attracting more and larger sporting events.
Number 1 oval clubhouse isn't our only recent dealing with sporting clubs needing club houses. I was more than delighted to be able to arrange for the local AFL club to take control of the old Girl Guides hall on the South Dubbo Oval. This hall is more than what is required to be a fantastic clubhouse for the region's AFL players and spectators.
This new arrangement, once the hall is refurbished, will grow the sport of AFL in our region. This gift to AFL shows that this newly-amalgamated Council is not only open to business to the private sector - but we also embrace our sporting community and encourage growth in their relevant sports.
Our goal of making the Dubbo Region the most disability-accessible region in Australia continues. In the previous twelve months, dozens of new tactile paving, new and better access ramps, improved signage and of course, our fully-compliant disability toilet in Church Street have been installed. We are not there yet, but our rapidly expanding infrastructure for the elderly and disabled is going to be a real selling point for our region when it comes to attracting new residents, while being a serious economic driver.
And economic drivers are not just the only drivers we are about. Truck drivers at our [Dubbo] Regional Livestock Markets are now able to clean their trailers and carriers at a state-of-the-art truck wash facility. This new setup makes sure that our livestock markets remain competitive with other industry players who are always trying to gain market share.
Our livestock markets have had a lot of investment, including rubber flooring and shade sails, which takes animal welfare into the 21st century. This facility is a huge income generator for our entire region - and we have made sure it will continue to be so for years to come.
Transport has been at the forefront of our regions continuing economic growth. With more road projects being completed, in the coming months we will see the opening of the final connecting section of Boundary Road to Sheraton Road. This important road link will help to address a lot of the traffic congestion problems facing the Bunnings, St Johns and Christian Schools on Sheraton Road. The finished Boundary Road will also significantly make the whole area a lot safer for the students of those two schools as well.
Windsor Parade crossing
Our region's elderly are also about to have a significant win. For years, there has been a traffic debacle, put in place by previous councils, at Windsor Parade where traffic-calming speed bumps have had the opposite safety effect. This current road infrastructure could be considered dangerous and a distraction for drivers in a place where they should be taking careful note of any elderly pedestrians. Very soon, the installation of pedestrian traffic lights in this area will make this major road a lot safer. I must thank Councillor Greg Mohr for pushing this issue through the traffic committee.
Neighbourhood Shopping Centres
Better pedestrian access is also coming to our neighbourhood shopping centres. Construction of new footpaths with improved aesthetics with much easier access is about to start. Councillor Vicki Etheridge has been pushing for these upgrades and the fruits of her work is about to come into fruition. The boost for these neighbourhood businesses by having more appealing surroundings will certainly have a positive effect in attracting new customers.
Economic drivers are not something that this council has confined to just the urban areas of Dubbo and Wellington. Right now our villages are seeing a new prosperity because of the investment council is putting into infrastructure that previous councils have largely ignored.
In each of our villages, there are urban streets that have been gravel or dirt for over 100 years. This council has sealed more gravel village streets than any other council in the last 25 years. Wongarbon streets are almost complete, Brocklehurst is not far behind while Eumungerie and Ballimore are continuing to see the benefits of more of their villages having that all important bitumen seal that allows for all-weather, dust-free access across the village.
Stuart Town Water
But it's not just road sealing that this council has risen to the challenge of. Stuart Town's new bore and water supply is a godsend to a historical village that has a long and proud history.
Stuart Town locals are now able to access water from a standpipe. This water supply will also supply irrigation to Stuart Town's main park as well as being used for crucial firefighting by the local RFS.
Wellington property prices
Talking Wellington, the last 12 months has been without a doubt the most successful year for the town in at least 25 years. Not only is new infrastructure starting to roll out, but the town's economic outlook is looking incredibly positive.
In a recent article from Domain, Wellington topped the list of NSW localities that achieved the biggest growth in property valuations at a whopping 26.1 per cent.
There is little wonder that Wellington is seeing such confidence in its housing market. The amount of local government spending, new amenities, improved infrastructure, and investment in recreational and liveability facilities has seen Wellington claim NSW's top dog status in housing valuation growth.
The opening of the new Wellington Pool has put the town on the map with having one of the most modern aquatic centres west of the Blue Mountains. The new aquatic centre has not only been embraced by locals, but also visitors to the town. Being heated, it has been able to attract even more swimmers than what the previous outdated facility did.
Wellington's Cameron Park
Wellington's parks, gardens and sporting facilities have never looked better either. The most obvious example of this has been the incredible transformation of Cameron Park, where the new adventure playground equipment and modern toilet blocks have been welcomed by the community with wide open arms. Soon there will be an Aboriginal cultural facility and cafe built on the site in the old Visitor Information Centre building, which is bound to be a hit with locals and visitors alike.
But Cameron Park isn't the only park that has seen significant development. Brand new lights at Pioneer Park has added that extra option of playing longer hours, while playgrounds at William Street, Walker Crescent Park and Bicentennial Park in Montefiores have all been fully replaced.
You cannot mention Wellington without noting the new experience centre at their world famous Wellington Caves. This $5 million dollar state-of-the-art building is already attracting more visitors to the region and is continuing to win further government grants to expand the exhibition side to the complex. Visitors and locals alike are amazed by the sheer size and vibrancy of the facility. Once COVID is over, this new facility will hyper-charge Wellington's tourism industry in ways we have not seen before.
Drug rehabilitation centre
However, we must support our locals who are doing it tough.
One of my greatest disappointments in my time as mayor is despite the repeated promises of politicians, despite parliamentary enquiries, and despite near 100 per cent backing of our local community, we have not yet achieved a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in our region, working alongside a drug court and a specialist youth Koori court.
That is not to say no progress has been made. Last year our federal MP Mark Coulton stumped up $3 million dollars of federal money for the cost of the buildings for such a centre. Mark Coulton remains supportive, even recently funding advertisements on Dubbo radio in support of the centre.
That $3 million remains unspent, sitting in government coffers. The missing piece of the jigsaw is state funding for the centre.
Both health and law and order are state responsibilities in our federal system. The state should no longer avoid its responsibility. I recently wrote to the responsible ministers, the treasurer Dominic Perrottet, the Health Minister Brad Hazzard and the Attorney General Mark Speakman urging them to fund both the centre and the specialist court services.
The deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence has been tirelessly fighting the good fight to get the state government to see logic and fund these initiatives as a matter of urgency.
Dubbo Regional Council will continue to push the case and strongly advocate for the Residential Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre working alongside specialist courts as our number 1 social priority for our region.
We are optimistic and wish our state member all the best in his lobbying efforts. I hope the community will not again be disappointed.
Coal Seam Gas
This council has been fearless in taking on issues on behalf of the community. One such issue has been coal seam gas. We have twice resolved to oppose it and recently made written and oral submissions to the Independent Planning Commission opposing the Santos Pilliga Gas Project. Councillor Greg Mohr and deputy mayor Stephen Lawrence have both led in this respect.
While it is looking increasingly like the drought is fading away, COVID is still a problem that is biting us financially which we must keep in check. Due to COVID, there is talk of a recession that I am confident the Dubbo Region will weather in its usual resilient way.
Our economic taskforce has in place plans to encourage our local businesses while also attracting new employees to our region. We are already seeing the fruits of our efforts in backing our own local economy. Yes, regrettably, there are some businesses doing it tough, but we also have a stack of new businesses and employers just waiting to call the Dubbo Region home.
Last week's announcement that international chain Carl's Jr has decided that its first inland store is to be at Dubbo is a testament to the fact that there is a huge amount of confidence in our regional economy. And I say to residents and locals - watch this space. There are even more positive announcements about more retailers, hospitality providers and industry coming. We are experiencing economic confidence far above other similar sized local government areas in the state.
The deadlock with the former RAAF Base has finally concluded. Soon, exciting announcements of great new innovative businesses and industry at the site will be made. The stunning achievement of this council being able to negotiate that four of the five large igloo hangers will be kept as well as well over 20 acres of trees maintained at the site is a credit to this council's new way of thinking - again, the Dubbo Region being open for business.
The coming year
My main focus over the coming twelve months is the local economy. We shall encourage our local housing sector; We shall promote our local retailers; We will develop our industry and create new jobs; We shall thrive with growing confidence and strength knowing our "open for business" policy will serve us through to make our region the inland economic showcase of the nation.