Gunnedah Shire Council is turning the screws on its calls for additional resources ahead of the state budget on September 19.
In a mayoral minute tabled at council’s August ordinary meeting, mayor Jamie Chaffey listed five priority areas – critical to the Gunnedah shire – for the government to address.
These areas included regional growth, housing, skills, roads and transport and health.
Cr Chaffey told his fellow councillors that action on these issues cannot come soon enough.
“[The mayoral minute] is urgent based on today we only have four weeks until state budget and it’s important we endorse a position to take forward to the government to reiterate what we need for our community,” he said.
The minute detailed how the priorities align with those of the Country Mayors Association (CMA) and Local Government NSW (LGNSW) which consulted on the needs of all communities across the state.
Cr Chaffey said financial constraints on council meant it was heavily reliant on financial support from the state and Commonwealth governments to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of the community.
He said it was incumbent on elected members to support the interests of their community to the best of their ability.
“It is our responsibility to advocate to the state government for the needs of our community to ensure that our community will continue to grow and prosper,” he said.
“I believe we deserve equity for our businesses, our community groups and our families that reside within the Gunnedah shire local government area with those who live in metropolitan areas like Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle.
“Now is the time that we must endorse priorities on behalf of our community, that must be funded to ensure that we are not held back from achieving all the opportunities that are before us now and will provide for the future generations to come.”
Fellow councillor Robert Hoddle supported the mayor’s motion but asked how council would progress the issue further.
Cr Chaffey said council will write to the NSW Premier and the state Treasurer to outline council’s concerns and seek meetings to further discuss their priorities for the Gunnedah shire.
Councillor Juliana McArthur said it was important that Gunnedah council’s priorities align with those of the country mayors’ and local government associations.
“I’m really pleased to see this being raised and hopefully we can get some traction,” she said.
Under Gunnedah’s regional growth priority, council was calling on government for the continued financial backing of government programs such as Resources for Regions, Stronger Communities fund as well as various tourism, infrastructure and events funding initiatives. The Country Mayors Association (CMA) said this funding should be at least in line with inflation and for the next four-year term of government.
On housing, council was requesting government heed the CMA’s call and establish a ‘Building Country Homes Program’ – a $100 million annual commitment over four years to encourage rural and remote councils to invest in new residential housing estates. According to the CMA, the program would also seek to increase homes in existing estates. Once homes are sold, state and local governments would share proceeds.
In the skills priority, Gunnedah was backing the CMA’s call for a ‘Building Country Trades Program’ at regional TAFE and registered training providers. Key to this program would be local industry input, combined with council and business chamber input in the apprenticeship courses to ensure maximum participation. To ensure the program’s ongoing success, the CMA said the initiative would require adequate funding for the tertiary training providers as member councils were experiencing critical skills shortages in many sectors but the availability to undertake trade courses in country communities was extremely low.
On roads and transport, council voted to support the CMA’s suggestion for a new $250 million new fund called ‘Fixing Country Pinch Points Program’. This would support rural, regional and remote councils to fix “recurring failure points” in the road network. The CMA highlighted how 126 of the state’s 128 councils have had a natural disaster declaration in the last 12 months and this funding would allow for “swift action” on roadways regularly damaged by such events.
Gunnedah’s final priority area, health, was also identified by the CMA and LGNSW for attention on numerous issues including the government-led inquiry on regional health care; the provision of aged care in rural NSW, critical doctor shortages and a review of health district distribution. Gunnedah’s priority area, however, specifically requested government provide the shortfall in funding to deliver the Gunnedah Hospital Redevelopment Master Plan in full.To order photos from this page click here