Mayoral Column 26 May 2014

Published on 26 May 2014

Budget blow: let’s talk

Let’s start a conversation.
It’s a conversation about money, but, much more than that, one that potentially casts a shadow over the services you as residents have come to expect from Council.
One result of the federal Budget is that rural councils are going to have their income from Canberra pegged at the current rate for three years, rather than rising – as it traditionally has – at about 2.5%.
Twenty-seven per cent of Loddon’s current revenue is Commonwealth money given to us through the Victorian Grants Commission.  If that’s capped as proposed, it will have an impact on our financial planning for the next three years to the tune of more than $1 million.
It’s the small rural councils like Loddon that are far more dependent on the funding they receive through this process than are large regional or metropolitan cities.
In our Long-term Financial Plan, we had assumed that rise of 2.5% a year and now that’s not going to happen.
Even if things got back to normal after these three years, this decision still means a $6 million shortfall over the 10-year life of Council’s plan.
The way we see it in Loddon, we have five options on how to respond.
First, do nothing and hope it all goes away. That’s not an option.
Second, we could, through the Municipal Association of Victoria, make representations to the Grants Commission to alter the formula so that it gives greater help to small rural councils.
Third, look at improving efficiencies and increasing the productivity of Council – do more with a given input.
Four, start a discussion with our communities around what services residents would be prepared to see reduced or dropped.
Lastly, put the rates up.  Council has no intention of doing that.
We would certainly welcome feedback from individuals and community groups on this pressing matter. At the end of the day, we’re in this together.

Town lifts its profile

Tarnagulla and its surrounding towns are growing their presence on the internet, with the launch of a new website next Sunday (1 June).

The brief ceremony, planned for 2pm at the Tarnagulla Community Centre, will include an address by City of Greater Bendigo Executive Manager Tourism Kathryn Mackenzie.

The website is an initiative of the Loddon Southern Region Tourism and Development Committee.

Committee president Dot Silke said planning for the move had begun 18 months ago in an effort to promote the small towns in the south of the Shire.

“We feel we’re a fairly untouched area here, yet there’s so much on offer in the way of history and nature tourism,” Dot said.

“The website will cover Tarnagulla, Laanecoorie, Eddington, Newbridge, Moliagul, Waanyarra, Arnold and Llanelly, with sections on local organisations, businesses, events and attractions.

“It’s been an interesting project to put together and a great effort by the whole committee, with much appreciated assistance from (Council Tourism Manager) Robyn Vella.”

I plan to MC the event and Cr Geoff Curnow will speak about the southern region of the Shire.  Afternoon tea will be served afterwards.

To find the new website, go to www.tarnagulla.com.au

Swimmers in hot water

Four of Council’s five public swimming pools are being fitted with new solar hot water systems this month, after a successful grant application to the Commonwealth Government.

The pools at Wedderburn, Pyramid Hill, Inglewood and Mitiamo will all receive a Solahart roof-mounted system to provide hot water for showers and basins.

It’s the first time these pools have ever had hot water on tap.

The Boort pool is not included because it was supplied with a new electric hot water system just a few months ago.

The $28,250 project was funded by a grant from the Local Government Energy Efficiency Program of just over $25,000, with Council paying the gap.

More improvement works are on the way in the off-season, with painting of the pools at Mitiamo and Pyramid Hill, all-new fencing at Wedderburn, a new irrigation system at Boort, shade sails for all pools and water features at Pyramid Hill, Mitiamo and Inglewood, with more to come.

Doing business better

Owners of local retail businesses looking to work smarter and be more effective will be offered more help from Council in the form of a self-assessment questionnaire.
The six-page document covers such key areas as telephone etiquette, a shop’s internal and external appearance, dealing with customers, websites and access issues.
Tourism Manager Robyn Vella says customer service is a vital part of daily operations which is often poorly appreciated.
“There are many facets to good customer service and this questionnaire will help people identify which areas are doing well and what needs improvement,” Robyn says.

“The questionnaire will be published quarterly through Council’s electronic tourism newsletter from next month (June) and posted on the Shire’s website, but paper copies will also be available on request.

“The feedback Council is able to gather will help us plan for relevant training next financial year.”

For any enquiries about customer service professional development, or to find out more about the self-assessment tool, please phone the Loddon Visitor Information Centre on 5494 1257 or email rvella@loddon.vic.gov.au

Gallipoli trip on offer

Senior secondary students in Loddon Shire have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of them.
The Victorian government is sending 98 students and their chaperones to Gallipoli to attend the Anzac Day dawn service next year.
The group will join descendants of Gallipoli servicemen, World War I widows and the thousands of Australians who were successful in the national ballot to participate in the solemn ceremonies.
Council nominated me, as the Mayor, to participate in this ballot, but I was unfortunately unsuccessful. I certainly hope that someone from Loddon is able to represent us on this special occasion. We would appreciate being informed if someone has been successful so that we can congratulate them.
Member for Swan Hill Peter Walsh has encouraged local students who will be enrolled in Years 9-12 next year, along with teachers from schools across the electorate, to apply.
Students will need to submit a written application, demonstrating their involvement in community activities and how they plan to share insights gained from their experience with their school and community.
Applications close at midnight on Friday 13 June at gallipoli.dawn.service@edumail.vic.gov.au