Cr Brian Hood
This is a brief snapshot from the August Council meeting and other pressing issues that are occupying Councillors’ minds.
In my report to the 15th August Council meeting I noted that the past month has been dominated by critically important matters including the emerging threat to Council’s role in planning; the race to secure Hepburn Shire’s fair share of funding for housing and sporting infrastructure post the Commonwealth Games cancellation; the disastrous powerlines destined for our Shire; the prospect of mining exploration and its effect on our precious aquifers; the delayed outcome of the electoral review; and the ongoing challenge of mending our roads.
I can assure the community that work is well underway in all of those areas to protect our Shire’s interests.
On the subject of roads, I can report that the total anticipated cost of works to repair storm and flood-damaged roads is around $13m, approximately 90 % of which may be funded through relief grants. To put that into perspective Council’s annual income from rates is $26m. Council’s already stretched cashflow has been seriously impeded by the untimely receipt of relief funding (to date we have received no funding for the January 2022 Creswick floods), slow assessments and the outright rejection of some claims. To be blunt – Council has undertaken multi-million dollar repair works ahead of receiving relief funding, thereby prioritising community safety over its own financial risk. While the community’s frustration with the time taken to complete works is understandable (and shared !) there remains poor understanding of which roads fall under Council’s responsibility and that of RRV. Council’s website provides details on which organisation is responsible for roads and how to report an issue. Council continues to regularly liaise with RRV and the State Government on this urgent matter.
On a far more positive note I am pleased to report that Hepburn Shire Council has formally stated its unanimous support for the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the Voice to Parliament. This stance is consistent with Council’s position to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart in August 2022.
Our support for the Voice to Parliament aligns with the work Council does towards recognition and reconciliation, including actions within our four-year Council Plan, Community Vision and Reconciliation Action Plan. Examples of this work include the award-winning Manna Gums Frontier Wars Memorial near Coomoora; bringing language back to Country with the creek naming of Larni Barramal Yaluk and supporting a range of community activities that promote understanding and reconciliation.
In reaching its unanimous decision councillors acknowledged that a First Nations Voice to Parliament would be an independent, representative advisory body that will provide a permanent means to advise Parliament and Government on matters affecting the lives of First Nations communities – including advice on practical steps to improve health, education, employment and housing.
Most importantly, a Voice to Parliament would be the means for recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution for the first time.
Councillors further noted that supporting constitutional recognition aligns with Hepburn Shire Council’s Reconciliation Plan and its underlying commitments to self-determination, partnerships, community dialogue and truth-telling.
Council has also resolved to share clear, credible information on the Voice to Parliament and all aspects of the upcoming referendum. We appreciate there are divergent views on this matter within the community. Providing clear and credible information will assist residents in making their own considered and informed decision. As always, we encourage our community to inform themselves and respectfully exercise their democratic right to have their say.
On other matters –
Council’s extensive work to develop new town structure plans for the Shire is powering ahead and I encourage residents to engage with Council through the consultation process.
Having adopted the 2023/24 budget councillors are now focussing on the long-term financial outlook, with an emphasis on planning for major capital projects including refurbishment of Daylesford Town Hall, community facilities in Birch ward, staff accommodation, master plans in Glenlyon and Clunes, the aquatic strategy…and more…
Finally, it is very disturbing and disappointing to note that the incidence of workplace violence, directed towards Council staff, is on the rise. On matters ranging from the condition of roads, planning decisions, community satisfaction and aged care, to name but a few, unacceptable attacks occur, some verbal, some online. Council has adopted a zero-tolerance stance. We will not tolerate aggressive, abusive or threatening behaviour. Council has issued a statement on this matter and is asking members of the community to deal with staff (and councillors) in a respectful manner and through the appropriate channels.
Cr Brian Hood is the elected Councillor for Coliban Ward and is currently the Mayor of Hepburn Shire.
This is the first in a series of Mayor’s Messages that we hope will become a regular feature of The Wombat Post. Like Councillor Columns, we offer this space as an information channel from Council to the community. Councillor Columns and Mayor’s Messages are not subject to editorial review by our editorial committee but are published as we receive them from our elected Councillors.