Brian Hood

Well, what a brilliant start to 2024. For Daylesford to be named the fourth most welcoming community in’s global awards is a wonderful and most welcome accolade. It has always been well known that as a shire we have superb natural attractions and a myriad of festivals and events to cater for a wide range of interests. But this acknowledgment pays tribute to our wonderful people and the warm welcome extended by community members, traders and accommodation providers to our visitors. This recognition will only serve to make Daylesford and other parts of the Shire a destination of choice and is welcome news.

While on the subject of congratulating great people I extend my thanks on behalf of Council to Neville Cartledge and Pat Tacey (joint Citizens of the Year), Alice Newitt (Young Citizen of the Year) and Chillout (Event of the Year) and to all community award nominees for their valuable contributions to our community. Well done to all.

The year is off to a busy and varied start with the past month featuring the Lyonville Woodchop, a celebration of community grant recipients from across the Shire, a flood mitigation seminar for farmers, the Trentham Sustainability Group’s clothes swap and a celebration of the Lunar New Year festival in Porcupine Ridge.

In an important safety initiative Council is working closely with the Department of Transport and Planning for a proposed 40kmh speed limit in the central business district of Daylesford. The proposal will soon be submitted for ministerial approval. The zone would cover the primary school, preschool, swimming pool, bowling club and the Howe and Vincent street shopping precincts.

2024 will prove to be an exceptionally busy and important year for Council and for councillors in particular. I can assure the community that councillors are determined to advance a number of critically important pieces of work by the end of our term. In that regard community members should watch out for draft town structure plans being released in coming weeks for further consultation. We are aiming to finalise these plans by the end of the term and then forwarding them to the state government for formal adoption.

Ahead of this year’s election the state government will seek to implement legislative changes aimed at strengthening oversight of councils, improving dispute resolution mechanisms, strengthening Council leadership and performance and imposing greater controls over councillor conduct. While instances of poor performance and behaviour in the sector warrant such reforms, Council will continue to work with representative bodies to help influence fair and reasonable changes.

Another major deliverable to be completed by September is the preparation of a long term (10 year) financial plan. This work has the key objective of ensuring Council’s financial sustainability and will necessitate a strategic review of Council’s service offering. Like most councils we face serious challenges in order to balance the books and at the same time meet community needs. Hepburn has experienced underlying deficits and a severely constrained cash environment for some years. So the challenge before us is well known and significant. Fresh guidelines addressing waste charges recently announced by the state government will only deepen the task at hand. The comparatively small size of Hepburn Shire, and other factors, will mean that some challenging strategic decisions must be taken if we are to meet our obligation to ensure longer term financial sustainability. The community will undoubtedly hear more on that subject as the year progresses.

Cr Brian Hood is the elected Councillor for Coliban Ward and is currently the Mayor of Hepburn Shire.

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