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Community & Business

2 December, 2022

Gil council meeting notes - November 15

Gilgandra Shire Council held their ordinary council meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. The below three items of interest were discussed at the meeting. 

Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee chairperson

A shared process has been endorsed by Gilgandra, Warrumbungle and Coonamble Shire Councils to address the requirement of councils to establish audit, risk and improvement committees (ARIC).

Councils are required under Section 428A of the Local Government Act 1993 to establish an ARIC as well as adopting an internal audit charter and terms of reference for the ARIC. This was previously completed by council at the April 2022 meeting. An ARIC can be shared across councils or joint organisations, as such councils can then share the cost of the committee and associated personnel.

Gilgandra Shire Council agreed that it would be prepared to share a joint chair of the Coonamble and Gilgandra ARICs. The shires have agreed to make their executive staff available as independent members on each other’s ARICs. Gilgandra Shire Council mayor Doug Batten said the issue had been previously looked at, but not executed, by a former sitting council.

“Essentially the job of the ARIC is to ask councils, and general managers ‘what keeps them awake at night’? “They will be looking at financials, asset management/renewal, water, sewer, in the case of Gil council, aged care and disability services,” said mayor Batten.

The ARIC will make suggestions to council, who will then decide what to enact. Mayor Batten said the shared budget and personnel between the neighbouring councils will make the process affordable. At the April 2022 meeting of Gilgandra Council, it was resolved to invite expressions of interest for an independent pre-qualified voting joint chair for Coonamble and Gilgandra.

The council business paper (November 15) states that expressions of interest (EOI) closed and only one expression was received. Progress was then made to appoint and commence the ARIC however, that person subsequently withdrew, and the role was readvertised. The eligibility criteria for the joint chair has changed with the position holder now not required to be ‘pre-qualified’ under the NSW government scheme. Coonamble Shire Council recently invited EOIs, which closed last Friday, November 18.

Coonamble advised that they were receiving strong interest in the role; attributed to the removal of the prequalification. A further report will be submitted to Gilgandra’s December meeting with a recommendation to appoint a joint chair. The reccomendation will be that a new budget allocation be made in 2022/23 to cover ARIC expenses of $40,000.

Social housing in Gilgandra

Council has recieved a “disapointing” reply from the department of planning and environment following advocacy to the minister (Anthony Roberts) regarding a lack of social housing availability in Gilgandra.

Mayor Batten said is was disapointing that although there is eight blocks vacant in Gilgandra owned by the department responsible for social housing, that nothing will be done to develop them at this stage. The blocks are situated in Wamboin Street, and in other parts of town where former ‘Housing Commission’ blocks are either vacant, damaged or fire destroyed.

The lack of action is despite the state government committing to delivering 127,000 new social homes to address growth in regional NSW. Mayor Batten said these programs are being undertaken in other areas - and once again rural and regional towns are missing out, even though the need is great and the blocks are available. Mayor Batten advised council that this latest unfavourable repsonse was a follow up from a previous letter to minister Pavey in November 2021, to which council did not receive a response.

Council noted the report and resolved to continue lobbying minister Roberts, and further request a meeting with the premier and deputy premier on this issue. Gilgandra council is also currently in the planning stages of developing a further release of the aeropark residential subdivision.

However, this will be first developed to accommodate the Inland Rail staff in both permanent housing and temporary buildings. These blocks/houses will then be available to the open market in later years. It is unclear if this will impact positively on social housing, or only on open residential/private housing. More on this development next week.

NSW Infrastructure Betterment Fund (IBF) grant

Council has resolved to lodge an application under the IBF for $1 million (comprised of $900,000 grant funding and $100,000 co-contribution) to upgrade the Baronne Creek floodway on National Park Road. The creek is currently closed due to flood/rain damage and is ineligible for upgrading under disaster road funding. As recently addressed by mayor Batten in regard to roads, he re-confirmed that the current disaster recovery funding arrangements are only a “Bandaid fix”.

He said under those arrangements council could spend $300,000 to return the creek crossing to its pre-rain evnet condition, only for it to be wiped out in the next weather event.

“The IBF is a rare opportunity to put in $1 million into upgrading creek works and hopefully fix the problem longterm,” said mayor Batten.

The council business paper states: Baronne Creek is subject to constant flooding, repeatedly leaving debris and damage causing closures of National Park Road.

The present floodway is a combination of culverts, cut-off walls and a bitumen causeway that appears to be the culmination of various attempts over the years to improve access with limited funds. The state-government’s IBF has been funded for $200 million to support the repair and rebuilding of public assets damaged by the bushfires of 2019/20 and flood events of 2021 and early 2022.

Cruically the IBF program enables the rebuilding and ‘betterment’ of infrastructure. This aims to reduce the vulnerability of the asset to future disasters, provides continuity of essential services and lowers the risk of economic impact due to a natural disaster. The program is open to projects valued between $100,000 and $10 million and while co-contributions aren’t required, the govenrment has advised that they would be viewed favourably during assessment. Gilgandra is required to lodge their submission by mid December and works must be completed by the end of May 2025.

A successful application to the IBF will complement council’s long-term plans to upgrade the “problematic Baronne Creek floodway” and other works required along National Park Road. Council is also awaiting advice on an application made to conduct further sealing of National Park Road under the ‘Fixing Local Roads’ program (applied for in August 2022).

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