Attractive wish list
Councillors want residents to help shape the future of Strathbogie Shire
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.”