Councillors 12 month progress report

It’s been a year since the latest council was elected to office.

So what has been done in the past 12 months?

The News asked councillors what the have achieved so far this term and what they hope to achieve in the next 12 months.

Grahame Andrew’s response was not available at the time of publishing.

See what they had to say below:

Ken Halstead

Ken Halstead. Photo supplied

Ken Halstead. Photo supplied

What have been your achievements as a councillor in the past 12 months?

Presiding over an effective council that has operated without turmoil and vociferous arguments.

What progress have you made on your election stance to improve the DA process, maintenance of roads and rate equity?

Partial, however I have no doubt that my focus on this aspect of the council’s operations was influenced by my election platform and my continual monitoring and focus on actual delivery. I believe that there is much more to be done in the area. (Mark 70/100).

What issues do you think will be important to the Highlands community in the next 12 months?

A vast improvement in road maintenance techniques, which I have been focussed on. Safe roads is a high priority and rate equity.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

A more effective management that communicates with the residents and ratepayers.

Duncan Gair and Peter Nelson 

*Combined response as they ran on the same ticket

Duncan Gair. Photo supplied

Duncan Gair. Photo supplied

What have been your achievements as a councillor in the past 12 months?

Peter Nelson. Photo supplied

Peter Nelson. Photo supplied

Working with fellow councillors to ensure a conciliatory and efficient working council.

Continue to make representations to NSW State Govt requesting additional funding for the Pension Rebate Scheme and library funding.

We are independent councillors and make decisions on what is presented to us and not on political lines.

The Green Waste Transfer Station for Northern Villages has not been implemented. However, this matter will be raised during deliberations in next years budget.

Maintained the infrastructure levy to ensure that rates are expended on infrastructure recovery program.

What progress have you made on your election stance to extend library hours at Mittagong and Moss Vale?

The council budget had been set by the previous council and there is little or no room to move on additional funding projects, including libraries. I (Peter) identified that $15,000 allocation from the budget could obtain one additional day for the Mobile Library Van to support the people of Robertson and Bundanoon.

What progress have you made towards improved car parking in Moss Vale and revising the efficiency of existing structures in council?

A long term strategy has yet to be formulated and funded. The RMS is to review the Main Street of Moss Vale and it will require council input. In this regard we intend to make Moss Vale Road the number one priority for the Regional Infrastructure Funding Program.

Council has reviewed the structure of council's senior management and together with other councillors (unanimously) agreed to retain the existing senior staff structure. This will give the staff certainty and stability in moving forward. Council has provided additional funding for the Environment and Planning Section of council to provide additional staff in this area to alleviate the deficiencies that had been identified.

What issues do you think will be important to the Highlands community in the next 12 months?

Consideration of a Green Waste Station for the northern villages.

The Station Street upgrade at Bowral.

Infrastructure renewal re maintain road and drainage improvements.

Continue to expend council's rates in and efficient and effective way for the ratepayers of the shire ie Fit for the Future Program, Road and Drainage and Open Spaces as identified by the Community.

Mittagong Pool Upgrade.

A firm timetable for the Bowral Memorial Hall and Moss Vale Civic Centre upgrade and refurbishment. 

$9 million expenditure on the interchange and road upgrade at Taylor Ave and Berrima Road.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

As part of the review of council's services raise the issue of library services generally and undertake a survey of the residents to ascertain if Mittagong and Moss Vale libraries should be opened to the public five and a half days a week.

Continue to ensure an effective and efficient running of council.

To gain a better understanding of council's planning issues.

Continue to lobby local members to obtain additional funding of $5 million for the Station Street upgrade.

Gordon Markwart

It is important to note that it requires a majority of councillors (or a casting vote by the mayor) to have any councillor’s notice of motion adopted. So I, nor any one councillor alone is responsible for council decisions, strategies or direction.

Gordon Markwart. Photo supplied

Gordon Markwart. Photo supplied

What progress have you made on your election stance towards maintaining green space, community facilities and the integrity of the environment levy?

I and several other councillors have contributed significantly to improving overall council effectiveness this term by not supporting caucusing and voting in accordance with our own values.

Clearly I have a strong focus on the environment and community values and vote accordingly.

Key decisions in which I was involved include: gaining initially confidential information for Bowral and District Hospital clinical services plans being made public. This illustrated the shortfall in hospital services planned for the Southern Highlands.

Also of note was the assistance I provided to council to amend the financial investment policy giving preference to organisations which do not support fossil fuel investments.

As well as many other issues, I have spoken out strongly to maintain our local environment, and via the appropriate council committees the effective allocation of the environmental levy, retention of our green spaces and opposed any support for the proposed Hume Coal/POSCO mine.

Along with other councillors I have supported the upgrading of major community infrastructure such as roads, water and sewerage, the Bowral Memorial Hall, the planned Station Street Upgrade etc.

I will continue to do so in the future.

What progress have you made against over development of the shire?

Council has taken a strong position on managing development in the shire. This was recently evidenced by a meeting between key council representatives and the Hon Anthony Roberts MP, Minister for Planning.

The mayor reported we received a good hearing on the issues raised including the oft mooted Chelsea gardens/Coomungie Planning proposals. I fully support the council’s position.

In addition I have concerns about the increasingly “non-rural” commercial activities such as function centres within our rural zones which can have serious implications for neighbours and the surrounding amenity.

This issue is yet to be satisfactorily resolved but hopefully will be addressed this council term to provide certainty for all parties.

What issues do you think will be important to the Highlands community in the next 12 months?

As a councillor my focus is beyond a single year. Our Delivery Program and Operational Plan pretty well defines council priorities over the next 12 months.

Over the next few years I believe maintenance and upgrading infrastructure is clearly the most visible and urgent issue. No organisation is perfect but in my view, council is improving service delivery in this key areas.

There is an enormous challenge being presented by climate change placing increasing pressure on all infrastructure such as roads and storm water drains, water catchment and drainage.

More intense rainfalls mean a once in 50 year deluge is now more common and infrastructure across Australia can be negatively impacted.

Employment is also a concern. Along with the pressure being applied for increasing residential development. All this applies pressure upon our environment – the reason why the Southern Highlands is the wonderful place it is.

And this brings us to ensuring our economy is powered by sustainable, equitable activities where the profits are retained for the most part locally.

Balancing the beauty of the Southern Highlands with increasing population pressure and all that entails is our major challenge for the future. It requires a balanced holistic view from council and making the hard decisions for the long term sustainability of our shire.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

I hope to contribute further to an ongoing robust council, where issues are examined and debated on their merits.

Along the way I’d like to see more visibility and involvement of council meetings by the general public perhaps by way of video streaming and such like.

Additionally I’d like to see council providing additional very focussed and selective support for some disadvantaged areas of our community.

Graham McLaughlin

Graham McLaughlin shares his thoughts on the first term of the new council:

Graham McLaighlin. Photo supplied

Graham McLaighlin. Photo supplied

-This council is working the best I've seen in its first 12 months. One reason is having a mayor for two years (a tick to the state government) and also to the mayor Ken. Councillors vote on issues and not in a 5/4 block as in some past councils.

- We are still a standalone council thanks to our staff and our GM. We had amalgamation back in 1981 which was good for our shire. However placing us with Wollondilly or Goulburn would have been a big mistake.

- Major upgrade spending on the shire’s infrastructure, roads drainage (are things that will be addressed in the next 12 months). Ratepayers will see this being rolled out from now on. This is a big plus for our shire.

- On a personal note I was pleased to have support from councillors with regards to inappropriate development that were using the heritage incentive clause for development. I do believe that our LEP needs to be the guiding principle on development. The use of 2.8 temporary use needs to be closely watched and only be applied for public benefit.

Ian Scandrett

What have been your achievements as a councillor in the past 12 months?

Ian Scandrett. Photo supplied

Ian Scandrett. Photo supplied

Significant achievements: I've worked hard on the following and they have proceeded with the support of other councillors: Exeter Hall extensions - finished; Bowral Memorial Hall - refurbishment budget now locked in; Hume Coal EIS - Council lodged a strong rebuttal; Planning Department - increased funding to resolve backlogs; Cavendish St roundabout.

What progress have you made on your election stance to improve infrastructure, trains and communication between council and the community?

  • Ensure a cohesive council: All Councillors have successfully been a very cohesive council.
  • Better Roads: More expenditure – more maintenance. All councillors have supported this. Big works program happening including substantial Rate Rise works.
  • Second Road repair plant: tender out now.
  • Real Focus on Road Safety: Black spot funding including Wilson Dr; new roundabouts; better roadside clearing, slashing and line   marking; new project management process; Chair Traffic Committee.
  • More Jobs through Tourism and Events, also technology: Working on new events with variety of lead times; eg fully supported Bowral Cycle Classic which just won Best New event in Australia.
  • Coal Free Shire continued commitment: Delivered community meetings and forums; submission to Hume EIS. Just visited Planning Minister re excluding coal mining from our LEP.
  • Build Multi-Purpose Sports Centre at Lackey Park: Feasibility Studies now finished; now working on grant funding with community groups and government.
  • Keep the “Green Between” our towns and villages: This is in everything I do, and is supported by the community's focus on the environment. Good Planning is essential eg I continue to actively campaigning against Chelsea-Coomungie greenfield 1500 home traffic disaster, which was refused by council four times, yet now taken over by State.  We have a likely 60% population increase in Moss Vale and the current population barely work with our local roads etc. Actively exploring options for compact in-town infill. Have recently taken these to the Planning Minister.
  • More Free Parking for Moss Vale and Bowral: WSC have just purchased a new shopper and commerce car park site in Wattle Lane, Bowral. Working on  Moss Vale options.
  • Lobby Hard for new express train and slots to Sydney: Worked with Jai Rowell MP on this. Government has announced new rolling stock program for our line- is now in now planning! Very pleased with this.
  • No big developers or mates running WSC: No private meetings with developers are allowed by mayor and myself and any meetings shall include staff. Supporting reforms to LG Act regarding developers etc being on council.
  • Open and Transparent Council –video council meetings: supported trial broadcasts of public forums by local media. Motion to come back to WSC in near future. State Government have required all merged councils to record and broadcast video.
  • Continue to Improve community Consultation: Massive focus on this – eg Station St upgrade with three week kiosk, signage and public meetings. Substantial social media activity as well as traditional media. Constant visits to and attendances within the community.
  • Investigate Indoor Equine Centre with multi-purpose: visited Tamworth [personally funded] and now looking at locations, programs and grants.  

What progress have you made in creating a waste watch and attracting more events to the Highlands

The Waste Watch promise is one both councillor Turland and I made. I expect to report on that in the forthcoming months as costs for matters currently before council are realised. One success is the the establishment of a Project Management regime, with dedicated staff, which all councillors supported. Another is supporting the establishment of an unfunded projects list, which was something that I raised late last term and has now been locked in as a budget management tool by councillors and staff.

Events: I continue to work on more events big and small personally and with the EDAT Committee. Two more food and wine clusters have been launched. I personally supported the Bowral Cycle Classic. It has just been named Best New Tourism Event in Australia. The Moss Vale Small Farms Field Day is in its third year. This was a concept I researched and provided to a local company. Assisted the Outdoor Adventure Show - it is now in its second year and brings many visitors. Events often have long lead times. 

What issues do you think will be important to the Highlands community in the next 12 months?

  • Traffic and parking issues in Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale especially.
  • Cavendish St and old Hume Highway roundabout - has gone to Federal blackspot funding request.
  • Getting the next stage of the Suttor Road Moss Vale bypass into latest grant funding lists as well as additional Welby highway ramps. 
  • Finalising the Sheepwash Road and Illawarra Highway intersection solution by RMS and funding.
  • Economic Development is very important. Our neighbours are seriously resourcing economic initiatives and funding dedicated staff. I chair our Economic Development and Tourism Committee [EDAT] and we are actively developing strategies to recommend to council.I believe we need to fund an Economic Development Officer – yes, a sales role, to assist with selling the benefits of business relocating here, for example manufacturing and distribution. Our S94 developer charges for the Economic Development Zone are too high and works not being scheduled,  I've requested a councillor information session on that. 
  • WSC itself currently don’t have any big economic development projects and that’s very disappointing. We have lots of infrastructure works, but that is all repairs and renewal, not new projects. The Moss Vale Indoor Sports Centre which I am supporting will bring an economic benefit of some $3.6m pa to the shire however it is not receiving any funding from council at this time.
  • The Northern Villages Rail-Side Trail has the full support of all MPs and its local community but council decided to rescind the $25k funding for the studies to get it to shovel ready stage [it will be fully funded by external grants]. We need to allocate some of our $112m budget to EDAT.
  • Water and water quality. Our catchment role. Bushfire risk management. 
  • Final removal of the disastrous Chelsea Coomungie housing project from the state potential housing list. We have over 30 years of approved residential land and much better located projects in application, a lot are land-banked. Rezoning approvals need to be "use it or lose it".
  • Sorting out the S2.8 "temporary use" clause in planning. This is being inconsistently applied to some projects. And it might need to be renamed "exception use clause". Jobs are thus not being delivered, especially in destination foot and wine, and hospitality.

-What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

Lots as per election pledges and general council direction. Personally, a few issues stand out: 

Confidence in council: It is clear many folk continue to not like "council". I'd like to see a real increase in our approval rating, this can only be delivered if we deliver Excellence in Service to our shareholders. Safer Roads, better footpaths, prompt responses to enquiries, quicker planning outcomes - all are on my big list. And yes, less potholes. Our staff are great and dedicated, but often maligned. This also deserves focus.

Local Government reform: I note that the state Labor leader, Luke Foley, has declared that a future Labor government would ban property developers and real estate agents sitting on local government councils due to the inevitability of conflicts of interests. These conflicts have been publicly demonstrated in numerous metropolitan councils. I believe the current legislation is not strong enough enough to prevent these conflicts of interest across the state and that includes the Wingecarribee shire. I will lobby.

Housing: I also want to see some opportunities for narrow block housing. Currently that can only be Seniors Housing so we need to unlock these opportunities for walk-to-town locations. Council is currently opposing some initiatives in compact housing despite market feedback that these are wanted for down-sizers and those with limited budgets.

Volunteering: An increased focus on the great role Volunteers play in our shire and our lives. Participation is dropping and we need to find out why and respond.

Garry Turland

What have been your achievements as a councillor in the past 12 months?

Garry Turland. Photo supplied

Garry Turland. Photo supplied

We (council) have harmonised ourselves. Councillors now work as united team. We still have opportunities to have different views but all councillors don’t have to vote in a certain way. It’s fantastic for the community.

We’re now establishing special rate variation funding, which is what we went to community for. Over the next 12 months the community should see that extra funding go to works desperately required for the shire.

What progress have you made on your election stance for reform and the creation of a rates and waste watch committee?

Without the support of other councillors that (rates and waste watch committee) can’t be achieved. I think now with all councillors and with four new councillors it allows them all to also understand how the council system work and allows the older councillors to help the new councillors throguh the process of how we allocate our funds to. We do have long term strategy planned along with short and medium strategies. The biggest thing for us as councillors is to keep asking questions of the staff and if we keep asking questions it will allow us to understand the whole process better with where we spend money.

What issues do you think will be important to the Highlands community in the next 12 months?

I think bushfires are going to be big in this shire in the next 12 month. It’s an issue that’s going to be extremely concerning if we have bushfires in any part of the shire. 

The state government has come out with report in relation to contaminants go into Warragamba Dam and Sydney drinking water and it seems councils are major contaminators. Our sewer system’s failing and we know we have to spend over 70 mil to upgrade them. The question is how much is the state government going to help us upgrade our sewer at Bowral and Moss Vale. 

Station Street bypass - It’s a must that we get onto the upgrade early in the new year. It will take over 12 months to perform the work in stages. It’ll be a huge benefit to the shire and residents who either go through, or work in or visit Bowral. Council has bought more property in Bowral to increase parking. I have suggested we do a multi-level deck and we build the car park in stages as we can afford to. It will be a great benefit to the shire.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

The car park and Station Street upgrade. What I would really like in the shire is for council to seriously consider a solar farm somewhere on our properties. We could get better value out of land which supports the community and reduce our energy costs. 

Larry Whipper

What have been your achievements as a councillor in the past 12 months? 

Larry Whipper. Photo supplied

Larry Whipper. Photo supplied

Ongoing advocacy for local residents is always a major achievement, working hard to improve customer relations and the efficiency of our customer request system is an ongoing challenge.

Continuing to hold the line against the threat of mining and the impacts upon our water, had certainly taken AC precedent over the last 12 months.

Securing the increased footprint for the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and finalising the masterplan for the Centre.

Working at the improvement of Community Service within the shire and establishing the Wingecarribee/Wollondilly Mental Health Stakeholders group. These are some of the personal achievements over the last 12 months.

What progress have you made on your election stance to strengthen the clusters, improve animal welfare at the shelter and improve the shire's roads?

This is something that I continue to advocate for. It is certainly on the agenda with Economic Development Committee. Dialogue with FOWAS and continuing advocacy and monitoring of our minimum euthanasia policy is ongoing. Shelter issues are monitored through the Community Development Committee of which I Chair and FOWAS have a representation. 

The continuing development of  council's green web project and the integration of of planning around biodiversity outcomes in our strategic planning and the Koala Conservation project are also valuable achievements.

What progress have you made towards a waste transfer centre for the northern villages?

I did test the waters moving a motion for a free annual waste pick up for pensioners. Unfortunately this was not supported by a majority of councillors. I will be bringing bringing a Question with Notice to council shortly for an update on this proposal.

What issues do you think will be important to the Highlands community in the next 12 months?

The threat of inappropriate development eg: Woolworths in Moss Vale. Chelsea/ Coomungie.

The potential threat of the loss planning autonomy is also a concern. Traffic conditions in Moss Vale. economic development and a focus on better utilisation of the economic enterprise zone. The strengthening of food and wine clusters. 

What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

All of the above and continuing responsiveness to the needs of residents 

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