Mayor delivers report card as council reaches halfway point
NOW halfway through its four-year term, Fraser Coast Council has delivered a report on how it has spent the past two years.
Financial management and the Fraser Coast Planning Scheme implemented in January were highlighted as key accomplishments by Mayor Gerard O'Connell.
He presented a summary of the first half of the term to councillors, council staff and some members of the public at the Brolga Theatre on Friday morning.
The second half of their term will be about building on foundations already laid, Cr O'Connell said.
He said creating sustainable education opportunities would also be key to help stop the flow of young people leaving the area to get training.
"We've got to arrest that," Cr O'Connell said.
The next local government election will be held in March 2016.
"It was good to reflect on the past two years and see how far we have come as individual councillors and a council," Cr O'Connell said.
"There are a number of projects which have started and are just bedding down, such as Fraser Coast Opportunities, the aviation and marine precincts, or are just starting such as the new planning scheme and incentive schemes.
"In the past two years we've approved $500 million worth of development.
"Some of that, such as St Stephens and Stocklands is underway while others such as the Station Square expansion are yet to commence.
"These developments will have a huge effect on the region economically, create an air of confidence and help focus attention on the region; especially from the finance institutions, the development industry and investors.
"I want to see the Fraser Coast as the region of choice - the place people choose to retire, the place couples choose to come to start a family; the place people choose to start a business.
"Now as the economy shifts and the focus is no longer primarily on the mining industry, the Fraser Coast will have a chance to showcase its assets to potential investors."
He said there were common themes when the councillors listed the achievements of the past two years and the tasks ahead.
"Achievements included the implementation of the Foreshore Enhancement Plan, establishment of Fraser Coast Opportunities followed by the development and introduction of the Fraser Coast Planning Scheme and incentive programs to attract investment and job creation," Cr O'Connell said.
He said managing the council's finances was regarded as the major priority for the future.
"There are so many competing demands for Council resources," Cr O'Connell said.
To continue to offer the services we have in the past while keeping rate rises to a minimum is a monumental task.
"One of the first things we did as a new council was to conduct a thorough review and analysis of council's finances.
"We've been able to achieve cost savings and continually refine our 10- year-plan to make sure we're allocating funds to the areas of most need.
"I think a fantastic achievement has been our focus on the amount spent with local contractors and suppliers.
"We've been able to ensure that more than 80% of our capital budget is spent with local firms to create employment in the region each year.
"Council's financial efforts have been rewarded and the recent Queensland Treasury Corporation audit moved our rating from weak/moderate risk to sound."
He added that growing investment, especially in new industries to create jobs remained high on the list of priorities.
"We have a number of projects such as the Avion Industrial Park in Hervey Bay, the Bruce Highway Industrial Park in Maryborough, Education Precinct and Marine Precinct ready to go as well as an incentive package to attract investment," Cr O'Connell said
"Our challenge for the next two years is to promote those far and wide; to sell ourselves to the investors of Australia.
"Fraser Coast Opportunities will have a big role to play in managing that promotion."
Stimulating the tourism industry was also high on the list, he said.
"Our traditional reliance on whale watching is under challenge so it is essential we develop a broader offer of tourism experiences," Cr O'Connell said.
"We are heartened by the increase in flights to the area through Qantas flights to Brisbane and Sydney and continue to approach airlines to promote flights to Melbourne and northern destinations."
Councillors' highlights and aspirations include:
Cr Robert Garland:
- The Let's Get Fraser Coast Working program has offered 60 participants valuable work experience.
- The Animal Management Working group has brought together animal rescue groups, veterinarians and Council to develop practical ways to cut the number of animals heading to the pounds and unwanted puppies and kittens.
- Continued improvements to the foreshore to ensure it remains a key community facility and tourist attraction. It is also a major drawcard that attracts people to invest in the region.
- Attracting investment to the region, especially job-creating investment through projects such as the Marine Precinct and Avion.
Cr George Seymour
- Council has refurbished its libraries to develop them into community hubs which offer new services and host regular events such as vintage movies, history talks, indigenous language classes, author events and children's literacy programs.
- These developments have helped drive a significant increase in membership numbers.
- Maryborough promoted as a premier heritage tourism destination, particularly through the Portside Precinct and Maryborough Open House.
- Managing community expectation regarding compliance with local laws and policies.
- Facilitate local employment and educational opportunities that will ensure young people don't need to leave the region to further their career or education.
Cr Rolf Light
- The Foreshore Enhancement Program which has improved facilities along the foreshore and created a place people want to spend time.
- Overseeing the adoption of the Regional Planning Scheme and Investment Attraction Scheme which will have significant benefits for the economic development of the region.
- Sustainable economic development to create jobs.
- Continually examine Council's finances to minimise the rates burden on the community.
Cr Stuart Taylor
- Implementation of Fraser Coast Opportunities which will ensure effective regional marketing and tourism as well as attracting investment and economic development.
- The installation of CCTV cameras across Hervey Bay to link into the network already existing across Maryborough will send a message that the Fraser Coast is a safe place to work, live and play.
- Developing tourism products and promoting them to the tourism industry, especially wholesalers who put together packages and promote through their outlets.
- The removal of red tape, especially to get tourism operators access to the western side of Fraser Island.
Cr Phil Truscott
- The Foreshore Enhancement Program and Project Mary (the management of mangroves along the City reach to improve views and access to the Mary River).
- The improvement to rural infrastructure, especially bridges and the paving of previously dirt roads.
- The formation of the Fraser Coast Arts Alliance will be a catalyst to propel the region's artists into the limelight and ensure the arts are a significant part of the regional economy.
- Beautification of the entrances from the Bruce Highway into Maryborough and the reserves on both sides of the Lamington Bridge.
- Improvements to the boat ramp car parking facilities at the Lamington Bridge and Tuan and improvements to the Poona amenities block.
Cr Daniel Sanderson
- The development, adoption and implementation of the Imagine This City Strategy 2013-2018.
- The Investment Attraction Scheme and planning scheme which will have a big economic impact on the region.
- Implementing the Bridge to Brolga Strategy and revitalising the CBDs to attract people.
- Implementing major projects such as the Marina Precinct and encouraging residential development.
Cr Darren Everard
- The repairs and commitment to further upgrades on River Heads Road.
- Finalising the Events Strategy: sporting and events tourism will be the growth markets for the region.
- Revitalising the CBDs by encouraging more events of all sizes; and continuing to improve facilities at the Brolga, Mary River Parklands and showgrounds so they become regional event hubs.
- Events based around the Mary and the Burrum rivers.
Cr Chris Loft
- The focus on local spend. In the past two years Council has been able to ensure that more than 80% of its budget is spent with local suppliers to stimulate the local economy.
- The introduction of Fraser Coast Opportunities and the development of its strategic plan to attract businesses and investment in our region.
- Boosting tourism, especially nature tourism with koalas and science tourism through Scitech.
- Nature tourism; Koala tours will become very important attraction for this region. The first tours have been conducted and we need to promote them.
Cr James Hansen
- Funds allocated to rural roads and bridges, such as the $1.2 million on Yerra Road upgrades.
- The formation of the Advancing Agriculture Committee which has elevated the importance of agriculture in Council discussions to ensure funds are allocated to infrastructure in vital production corridors.
- Development of a genuine 'Farmers Market' to allow residents to buy directly from producers and encourage the development of niche industries such as Lychee Divine.
- Continued upgrade of rural infrastructure to ensure agriculture remains a viable and sustainable sector to provide employment.
Cr Trevor McDonald
- Willingness to address long standing issues however publicly unpalatable
- Vastly increased public engagement through the various mechanisms - Community Chats, work-place visits, Jatz and Crackers with the Mayor
- Maintaining momentum and attracting investment in a declining commercial environment.
Addressing the backlog of asset refurbishment within budget constraints.