At­trac­tive wish list

Coun­cil­lors want res­i­dents to help shape the fu­ture of Strath­bo­gie Shire

Euroa Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY WILL MUR­RAY

2017 is shap­ing up to be an­other busy year for the Shire of Strath­bo­gie - promis­ing big events, bold new in­fra­struc­ture projects and a shake- up of some of the old prac­tices of previous coun­cils.

The hon­ey­moon pe­riod en­joyed by the re­cently elected coun­cil­lors is now well-and-truly over, yet it has been the will­ing­ness of the new coun­cil to push for change and be proac­tive so early into their term that has given Mayor Amanda McClaren rea­son to feel ‘ex­cited and op­ti­mistic’ about 2017.

“This coun­cil,” Cr McClaren told the Gazette, “has a real fo­cus on de­liv­er­ing on our promise to im­prove the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween coun­cil­lors and the con­stituents this year.

“We’ve started by de­cid­ing to take the coun­cil meet­ings around the shire, ro­tat­ing be­tween the ma­jor town cen­tres ev­ery cou­ple of months.”

By ro­tat­ing the meet­ings, the coun­cil hopes to give ‘ev­ery­one the op­por­tu­nity to come and have a chat with their rep­re­sen­ta­tives and ask ques­tions’.

The coun­cil also plans to en­hance com­mu­nity en­gage­ment in the draft­ing process of the coun­cil plan for 2017.

By set­ting up ‘con­ver­sa­tion cafes’ through­out the shire, peo­ple can come and put for­ward what they would like to see con­sid­ered by plan­ners.

“It’s not about com­ing into the job of draft­ing a plan with a set agenda,” Cr McClaren said.

“We want to en­gage with com­mu­nity mem­bers and see what mat­ters to them.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ment is the clos­est form of gov­ern­ment, and we want to take it to the peo­ple.

“We want the res­i­dents of Strath­bo­gie to have real say in shap­ing the fu­ture of their shire.”

At the fi­nal coun­cil meet­ing of 2016, which was held in Nagam­bie as per the ro­ta­tion sched­ule, a raft of new in­fra­struc­ture and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment projects were an­nounced.

These in­cluded the seal­ing of a sec­tion of Burns Av­enue, Euroa ( be­tween White and Atkins streets), the kerb­ing and chan­nel de­vel­op­ment in Camp­bell Street, Euroa (pro­vid­ing 16 car park spa­ces) and the ex­pan­sion of park­ing spa­ces along Tulip Street, Vi­o­let Town, to cater for those at­tend­ing the mar­ket.

Larger scale projects an­nounced in­cluded the con­struc­tion of a fu­ture Me­mo­rial Ser­vice Park on Brock Street, Euroa (the ‘Tel­stra Pad­dock’ be­hind the post of­fice).

This project, which is sched­uled to com­mence in the sec­ond half of 2017, will cre­ate a me­mo­rial park which will dis­play a record of all of the shire’s ser­vice­men and women.

Draft de­signs en­vis­age the park to in­cor­po­rate a path lead­ing to a cen­tral cir­cle and po­si­tion­ing five bronze me­mo­rial walls set out in the shape of a pen­tagon. The site will also be the home to new pub­lic toi­lets.

The con­struc­tion of a new Vis­i­tor In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre in Nagam­bie was also given ap­proval with a vote of 5-2 in favour of the project.

Fronting High Street at Jacobson’s Out­look, Nagam­bie, the de­vel­oper of an up­com­ing café, res­tau­rant and brew­ery has agreed to con­struct the VIC and lake ac­cess stair­case at no cost to coun­cil.

There was sig­nif­i­cant de­bate over whether ap­proval should be given, as coun­cil would have to agree to lease the VIC to the de­vel­oper who plans to op­er­ate out of the build­ing and act as agent for Goul­burn Ex­plorer book­ings.

Coun­cil­lors have also taken an axe to some of the pro­posed plans laid by their pre­de­ces­sors, with many of the new­com­ers ea­ger to demon­strate their abil­ity to lis­ten to com­mu­nity sen­ti­ment and dis­man­tle some plans if they do not mea­sure up to pub­lic scru­tiny.

In light of this, the ‘Love Strath­bo­gie’ news­let­ter will be­come quar­terly in 2017, fol­low­ing back­lash from many within the shire who ar­gue the pub­li­ca­tion su­per­flu­ous and an un­nec­es­sary ex­pense.

The Bin­ney Street round­about that also caused much con­jec­ture with lo­cal busi­ness own­ers and res­i­dents, who railed against the $400,000 al­lo­cated to the project in the 2016/ 17 bud­get, has been scrapped.

The money has now been re-al­lo­cated to in­ves­ti­gat­ing an al­ter­na­tive in­ter­sec­tion im­prove­ment project for the Euroa-Shep­par­ton Road/Bound­ary Road North in­ter­sec­tion (Euroa Sa­le­yards lo­ca­tion).

Coun­cil also voted to post­pone the introduction of an­gle park­ing on High Street in Nagam­bie due to the feed­back re­ceived at the re­cent ‘lis­ten­ing post’ in the town.

In­stead, they will es­tab­lish a com­mu­nity work­ing group to li­aise with coun­cil over the next six months.

While the mayor ex­pressed her ap­proval of the coun­cil tak­ing a proac­tive and con­sul­ta­tive stance with re­gard to new de­vel­op­ments within the shire, she ac­knowl­edged that there re­mained a num­ber of chal­lenges fac­ing the lo­cal gov­ern­ment in 2017 and that any com­pla­cency with re­gard to com­bat­ing these chal­lenges would not be al­lowed to take hold.

“The fact re­mains that we are a small ru­ral shire with a low pop­u­la­tion of ratepay­ers, how­ever, we have a large in­fra­struc­ture spend due to the sheer size of the mu­nic­i­pal area,” Cr McClaren said.

“It is a fo­cus, there­fore, that we con­tinue to push for new ini­tia­tives that will help grow and de­velop our shire and main­tain our level of ser­vices with­out hav­ing to in­crease rates.”

Cr McClaren ac­knowl­edged that the State Gov­ern­ment man­dated 2 per cent rate-cap would present a chal­lenge, how­ever, praised the work of for­mer coun­cil­lors and shire staff that had placed this coun­cil in a strong po­si­tion to cope with these chal­lenges.

“We have to thank them for tak­ing the shire from a po­si­tion of real strug­gle to one that is read­ily high­lighted as a lo­cal gov­ern­ment that has turned things around,” she said.

“I re­ally want to ac­knowl­edge the hard work of those peo­ple who have achieved this turn­around.

“We now have a Strath­bo­gie coun­cil that can look for­ward to putting in place many ex­cit­ing projects, and it’s a re­ally op­ti­mistic time given our re­ally strong start­ing po­si­tion for the next four years.”

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