Mayoral Column Media Release - 07 March 2019

Late February saw the start of the “Tech Savvy Seniors” program supported by Telstra and the NSW Government through the State Library of NSW. This program aims to bring seniors up to date with information technology. The first session covered introduction to computers. Other sessions will be run on introduction to the internet, smartphones, tablets and iPads and navigating the NSW Seniors card website. Sessions are free and run for two hours every second Friday until May. If you are or know someone that may be interested please phone the Oberon Library on 6329 8220 for more information and bookings. There are still some places left in most sessions. 
 
As part of the Oberon Field to Forest Promotion currently underway for autumn strong interest in the scheduled activities has been received. Events include a Mushrooming Tour led by Urban Forager Diego Bonetto (already sold out) and a 4WD mushroom tour and intro workshop (spaces available) so if you are interested in mushrooms I suggest you book soon. Tourist bookings are strong for the Oberon Wine and Beer trail events on April 6 and April 27. Why not discover the secrets of our own back yard; tickets are $75 including transport, Oberon branded wine glass, all tastings and a beautiful pub lunch. For a full schedule of Field to Forest events contact the Visitor Information Centre on 6329 8210 or go to the website www.visitoberon.com 
 
Works to fix the ponding issue at the Black Springs Recreation Ground have been completed; this work included levelling to assist water to drain from the field and construction of a new improved access road off Reserve Avenue.
 
I note that after a letter published recently in the Oberon Review there may be some confusion or misunderstanding in relation to the Special Rate Variation instigated by council in 2015/16. 
 
In 2014/15 as part of the Fit for the Future process, the NSW Government put into place new benchmarks for local government. They also reviewed infrastructure depreciation criteria for local councils. This meant that all councils had to take a hard look at their asset registers and deal with the changes this NSW Government action imposed upon their infrastructure backlog. In 2015 Oberon Council went to the community with a proposal to submit an application for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) over five years on general rates. Oberon rates were amongst the lowest within the Group Ten councils (similar size councils) and Oberon Council had never previously applied for a variation. Through community consultation priority roads were identified and a commitment made that all of the funds raised over the five years would be applied to these eight priority roads being Dog Rocks, Lowes Mount, Hazelgrove, Beaconsfield, Sewells Creek, Campbells River, Burraga and Abercrombie Roads.  The community agreed, and the SRV was subsequently approved by IPART. We are currently in the fourth year of the SRV. Annual reporting on how SRV funds are spent is listed in the council Annual Financial Statements and reported to Council. This information is fully transparent and available, and should be viewed in context.  Over the five year tenure of the SRV approx. $1m will be raised in additional rate revenue and will be spent on the eight priority roads previously listed.
 
Percentage cumulative increase approved were as follows:
 
Financial Year 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
Approved Increase 6.50% 6.90% 6.95% 7.00% 7.00%
 
These percentages are inclusive of the normal rate peg rise as defined by Treasury. For example the rate peg in 2015/16 was 2.4% so actual extra increase was 4.1%. It is important to note that Oberon still enjoys low rates compared to other group ten councils, 47% of Oberon land is unrateable and provides no income. The Oberon LGA covers 3628sq kms, with 442kms of sealed roads and 524kms of unsealed roads to maintain.