Mayoral Column 2 February 2015

Published on 02 February 2015

CAPTION: Loddon Shire Council’s former Commissioners, Murray Treseder, Goff Letts and Peter Watts attended the 20th anniversary celebration dinner.

Council ends roadside firewood collection

Roadside firewood collection permits will no longer be issued by Council, after a report was presented to Councillors at the January Ordinary meeting.

In mid-2011 Council commenced the issuing of permits for collection of firewood from local roads following a decision by the Department of Sustainability and Environment to cease the practice of providing approval to residents.

In direct response, Council developed a permit process to facilitate the continued access for residents to collect firewood from roadsides, with the established Works in Road Reserve Permit.

Permits have been issued for a 12 month period and do not include a limit on the volume of firewood that can be collected.

However, during the past four years, the collection of firewood along roadsides has been identified as an activity that carries a degree of inherent risk and cost to Loddon Shire Council. This, combined with the relatively low number of permits issued over the last four years, has led Council to withdraw all future approval for this activity along our local road network.

Council did not come to this decision lightly. It did consider the benefits afforded to local residents being able to source limited quantities of firewood from roadsides, in contrast to the legislative and operational risks associated with the activity.

The scheme has proved difficult to administer, difficult to comply with, and has not had a lot of use.

The main issue has been around the protection of the environment by law, meaning that, where the best firewood was located was also classified as of high environmental value and was unable to be taken. Another complication was the fact that, within one road, there could be sections of low, medium and high conservation value, as determined by the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

Council would be carrying joint liability if it issued consent for firewood collection, and the person holding the permit carried out works that may violate environmental protection laws. These laws are enforced for the protection of significant roadside vegetation and ensure there is no detrimental impact upon local habitats.

Council also noted that from an administrative perspective, the costs and resources associated with running the permit process is difficult to justify given the limited relative benefit to those undertaking collection in the low conservation areas where they are allowed to operate. The nature of the activity is restrictive, with minimal locations nominated as approved areas.

Given the risks associated with the collection of firewood, Councillors voted to stop the issuing of any future permit applications effective immediately.

In making this decision to suspend the issuing of permits, Council has brought Loddon Shire in line with many of its neighbouring councils and the majority of municipalities across the state.

Council will honour all current permits, but will not renew them as they expire. All residents should be aware that conducting unauthorised works within Council’s road reserves can attract penalties of up to $1500.

In substitution of the former permit process from Crown land collection, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning operates an annual program, providing various locations of Crown land reserves as community firewood coups. For more information about the coups, visit the DEPI website:

www.depi.vic.gov.au/forestry-and-land-use/forest-management/firewood

Loddon Shire Council’s 20 year anniversary

Last Tuesday night was an opportunity to reflect on our municipality’s past, as Loddon Shire Council celebrated its 20th birthday.

I have witnessed many things change over the course of the region’s history, with one of the most significant, the amalgamation of councils to create Loddon Shire Council.

Over the years we have faced many challenges, and it’s important to reflect on where we have come from.

In 1994, 210 local governments were reduced to 78, and councillors were replaced temporarily with commissioners.

Loddon’s amalgamation included three entire councils: the Shire of Gordon, the Shire of East Loddon and the Shire of Korong, and included parts of Marong, Bet Bet and Tullaroop to form the Loddon Shire Council.

Loddon’s first financial year had a total income of $10.62 million. Today, the Council has a total budgeted income stream of $28.76 million.

Council has achieved significant milestones for its community over the years, and has been successful in bringing in state and federal money for infrastructure projects.

We have seen important community infrastructure projects come to fruition including the Tarnagulla Community Centre, the Wedderburn Community Centre, the Boort Memorial Hall, and the Pyramid Hill swimming and tennis complex.

As a Council, recreation remains at the forefront of our thinking, as we believe it is critical to the social cohesion of our community. That is the reason we have continually supported our sporting clubs through the restoration of clubrooms, our drought proofing program, our assistance with the works on our netball courts, our swimming pool upgrades, funding the allocation of water for our sporting grounds, and the purchase of mowers for Loddon’s groundkeepers.

Much of what we have done is as a result of one of our best innovations, our Community Planning Program, introduced in 2002, has led to millions of dollars’ worth of community infrastructure being built, based on the suggestions of our communities.

While we have seen many projects come to fruition as a Council, there have also been a few challenges. As a community, we have shown that we are a resilient bunch, especially after the 2011 floods. We did what we could to prosper from our adversity. Some outstanding results followed, including the $32 million local roads upgrade, the new Bridgewater Caravan Park, and the magnificent new facility at the Newbridge Recreation Reserve.

Over the years, we have achieved a great deal as Loddon Shire Council. The achievements in our community have been outstanding, and the municipality should be proud of the challenges we have overcome.

Loddon assesses its performance

Loddon Shire Council is participating in an independent market research survey for three weeks in February.

Residents may receive a household call from market research company, National Field Services.

The company has been commissioned to conduct a community satisfaction survey on behalf of Loddon Shire.

Similar surveys will be undertaken across a number of Victorian councils in the coming months.

The survey has been designed to assess the performance of Loddon Shire Council across a range of measures to identify ways to provide improvement or more effective service delivery to residents.

National Field Services will keep all details and individual responses confidential. Only the overall results will be shared with Loddon Shire Council.

For more information, please call Loddon Shire Council’s customer service centre on 5494 1200.