Sustainability the focus of Council annual plan and budget

CouncilGladstone Regional Council today adopted its operational plan and budget for the 2017-18 financial year, setting out the organisation’s priorities for the next 12 months.

Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett said the document contained Council’s first year of actions to achieve the outcomes of its recently adopted five-year plan, including a resilient community and diverse economy now and into the future.

“Our five-year strategy supports four pillars of sustainability for our organisation and region – a strong community; prosperous economy; environment that supports our needs and lifestyle; and rigorous Council processes,” Councillor Burnett said.

“Our 2017-18 operational plan and budget acts decisively on that.”

Cr Burnett said Council’s vision was for the Gladstone Region’s people “to live and age well because they are healthy, resilient, creative and inclusive”.

“This year we will invest $10.6 million in our community’s wellbeing, including support for sport and recreation clubs and community groups, disaster management, youth development, seniors programs, arts and culture initiatives and vital advisory services,” he said.

“We will also actively participate in the delivery of Australia’s first intergenerational village and are pleased to confirm that works will commence this financial year on the long-awaited Integrated Health Services Precinct on Philip Street, Gladstone.

“This precinct will support local jobs and attract vital wellbeing services to our community, and persistent lobbying secured the federal government support needed to proceed with our $5.1 million investment.”

Cr Burnett said Council also recognised a need to provide natural and built environments that “support the needs and lifestyle of this generation and the next”.

“The Gladstone Region covers a large area of 10,500 sq km and we have budgeted $179.7 million to maintain and make necessary improvements to our 2698km road network, 700km water mains network and 678km sewer main network, to ensure these essential services cope with current and future demands,” he said.

“We have also budgeted $24.5 million to maintain and improve the 11.3 sq km of parks and sports fields that support our health, lifestyle and tourism and also maintain natural beauty in a region that benefits from heavy industry.”

Cr Burnett said the most extensive open space redevelopments planned for 2017-18 would be predominantly financed by the State Government’s Works for Queensland program, secured by Council on the basis of their job-creating ability.

“The redevelopments of Tom Jeffrey Memorial Park in Agnes Water, Lions Park in Gladstone and Golding Park in Mount Larcom will not only benefit the wellbeing and lifestyle of our community; they will assist our local economy by boosting employment and supporting tourism – at minimal cost to the ratepayer,” he said.

Cr Burnett said the prosperity of the region was a major focus in Council’s five-year plan and, accordingly, the financial year plan and budget.

“Our vision is that the Gladstone Region enjoys a diverse, resilient economy that provides for sustainable, responsible growth,” he said.

“Our operational plan contains many actions to realise this, including speeding up development application processing, removing commercial compliance licence red tape and fast-tracking certain commercial ventures.

“Required capital investments of $101 million as well as $410,000 in major community events funding will support 428 local jobs, according to economic profiling.

“We’ve also allocated $400,000 to support economic development initiatives and attract major conferences to the region, in addition to the $470,000 we provide to GAPDL to promote the region as a tourism destination and host welcome events for cruise ships such as the Feast on East Markets.

Cr Burnett said Council recognised that sustaining the prosperity of the region was important to ratepayers.

“A part of achieving this is ensuring that costs incurred by ratepayers this financial year are kept to a minimum,” he said.

“On average residential properties will experience an increase in annual rates and service charges of $1 per week, which is below the CPI increase of 2.1 per cent,” Cr Burnett said.

“More than half of residential properties will experience a reduction or no change in their general rate.

“This was made possible by a ‘back to basics budget’ that has restrained our increase in operational expenditure (excluding depreciation) to only 1.6 per cent despite a 2.1 per cent increase in CPI.

“Sustained and proactive lobbying for $24.9 million of state and federal government assistance for important capital projects was also successful in reducing financial impacts on ratepayers.”

Cr Burnett said Council had also listened to community requests to break rate payments into more manageable portions.

“This year, our service charges for water and sewerage will be split into half-yearly bills,” he said.

“A property’s August rate notice will now include only half of its annual water access and sewerage charges; the other half will be moved to accompany its February water consumption notice.

“This is a significant cost that is now broken into two payments to assist ratepayers to budget for and manage their payments.”

Cr Burnett said the delivery of an operational plan and budget that would balance the immediate need of minimising costs for ratepayers and the long-term needs of the region had “required a sustained effort across all areas of Council”.

“All levels of Council from elected Council representatives through to the work teams throughout our region are dedicated to contributing to our vision for a strong community; prosperous economy; environment that supports our needs and lifestyle; and rigorous Council processes,” he said.

“I congratulate them on a 2017-18 operational plan and budget that will go a long way toward achieving this.

view the council’s plan and budget summary here.