An announcement by the NSW Government that the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) will be changing its methodology for fund allocation this financial year is concerning. The NSW Government will now be asking for an annual contribution from Councils, based on the previous year’s expenditure. Although supportive of a fairer system for funding emergency services, the proposed system is inequitable and disadvantages Councils that have invested more rather than less in their fire services. They will contribute significantly more and run the risk of being penalised by subsidising less proactive zones. This new methodology has been announced after councils have already prepared and adopted budgets for this financial year with no consideration given to the significant increases that may result. Central West Councils are very concerned about the lack of transparency and oversight in this process. We cannot function without the RFS service which is staffed by many dedicated highly respected volunteers in our local communities, we expect to pay for this valuable service but it needs to be equitable and not a cost shifting exercise by the NSW Government. The NSW Government has also announced it will be implementing a property-based emergency services levy to be paid alongside council rates. If councils are forced to administer this process we will be virtually acting as collection agents for the NSW Government despite no legislation being passed on the reform and no clear indication as to who will be “picking up the tab” and how bad debts will be managed. Once again, local government has not been meaningfully consulted on either of the reforms mentioned above.
As at the time of writing this column there has been no news on the Woollahra appeal determination. As you recall the Minister granted an extension to Oberon regarding deciding on an appeal in its own matter until seven days after the Woollahra matter is determined.
I am pleased to see the concept of a Community Garden is once more on the table. It is proposed to establish this garden as part of the new Community Hub development. The plans for this development are currently on display at both Council and the Library. I urge you to take the time to look at them and offer comment.
The Oberon Pool opens tomorrow for the 2016/17 season. Season passes at $72 and $216 for a family are great value and would make perfect Christmas gifts. A full list of pool activities and opening times is available from Council or the pool.
Work is progressing on addressing the impact the recent wet weather events have had on our road network. I thank you for your patience. Many will be pleased to hear work has started on the Abercrombie Hill project. We were lucky enough to receive some Black Spot Funding to assist with this much needed work.
I have spoken in this column previously about the necessity of having house/property numbers prominently displayed. This issue has again been raised by emergency services. It can be difficult to locate your property in an emergency situation especially at night if there is no clear number displayed. Council will be looking at ways we can assist but you can help right now by ensuring your property can be clearly identified.
I am available every Monday to speak with community members on any issues concerning them. Please contact Sharon Swannell 6329 8100 to set up a time. If Monday is unsuitable I will endeavor to make myself available at a mutually suitable time.
Mayor Kathy Sajowitz