Unfortunatley I am again compelled through this column to refute comments made publically by Bathurst Local Member and Minister for Local Government Mr Paul Toole. Upon returning from leave last week I was contacted by several community members seeking information and clarification on comments made by Mr Toole during a recent 2BS radio interview. In the interview the Minister allegedly alluded to the fact that Oberon had applied for and received a Special Rate Variation (SRV) which was now being wasted on funding legal action in relation to proposed forced amalgamation. The Minister knows as well as I that a SRV has to be project specific and cannot be diverted to any other use. The SRV in this instance was raised to primarily assist with addressing priority roads within the LGA. Specific roads were nominated in the application which was not only endorsed by our community but approved by IPART. For further clarification, when “Fit for the Future” was introduced by the NSW Government as part of that process the Minister commissioned evaluatons of all NSW Councils through TCORP/IPART. It was recommended that as Oberon was debt free and had never in its history imposed a SRV, to assist council in addressing its road infrastructure backlog it would be beneficial when proving itself “Fit for the Future” if we were proactive by borrowing funds and applying for a SRV. Council took this advice which now appears is being used against us. This is perplexing.
The Minister also alluded that the legal action was a waste of ratepayers funds which should be used to address the current poor condition of Oberon’s road network. Whilst acknowledging the recent severe wet weather events have impacted on not only Oberon roads but networks all over the Central West, I can assure the community that we have a healthy roads budget which is being used to remediate affected roads, a plan has been developed to undertake necessary works as soon as practicable and conditions allow. It would be more helpful if the NSW Government offered financial assistance to all councils affected by ongoing rain events. The legal challenge has been and will continue to be fully funded from general revenue, the fact that we are sharing costs with Cabonne Council and in some instances Gundagai plaintiffs, has allowed the action to be managed financially. For the Minister to also state publically that the proposed forced amalgamation is a “done deal” and “will happen regardless” whilst we are currently pursuing our democratic rights through the court system is inflammatory and disrespectful to Mr Tooles Oberon constituents, he does after all represent Oberon as well as Bathurst at a local level. I suppose we all use throwaway lines and quick news grabs at some stage for maximum impact, but I resectfully request the Minister to be more considered and informed when doing this.
My first offical function after returning from leave was to attend the RFS Cadet Championship & Graduation Day hosted this year by Portland Central School. This is a great youth program conducted through High Schools in the Chifley Area including Oberon High, La Salle Academy, Bathurst High, Portland Central School, Scots School, Lithgow High and The Carenne School. Oberon performed very well in the Championships taking second place behind Scots. Congratualtions to Hannah, Emily, Abe, Daniel and Malcolm. The new Mayor of Lithgow Stephen Lesslie and I were on hand to congratulate our local teams and present the awards. I am very concious of and really enjoy interacting with our youth, they are the future of our communities.
I am sure the whole Oberon community joins with me in offering sincere sympathy and support to the families and friends of the three young men involved in the horrific accident last weekend. We all wish the young man who is currently undergoing medical treatment a speedy and complete recovery. In a small community an incident such as this has enormous impact, our special thoughts are with the families of the two young men who sadly passed away as a result of the accident. I cannot begin to imagine their pain.
Mayor Kathy Sajowitz