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COUNCIL COLUMN – 24 August 2021

Aug 24, 2021

For Immediate Release 24 August 2021
Authorised by Councillor Tony Flanery

Council will vote to send the LEP to the NSW government for ratification and finalisation at the August meeting tomorrow night. It is a significant step forward and comes on the back of the recent rates harmonisation. The LEP is not perfect but there has been a huge amount of work go into the document. It will be the overarching document that guides planning decisions for the next 5 years.

One of the most frustrating factors for all involved has been the limitations on what can actually be amended due to the State Government policies that sit over the top of the Council LEP. It would be good if there was a better understanding of what drives rural economies by urban focussed planners. There appears to be a view that we don’t know what is best for our towns and surrounding agricultural region and that as many people should be jammed in together so the cost of water, sewer and rubbish collection can be minimised due to economies of scale benefit.

The problem is that people who live in rural Australia, do so because they want space and greater freedoms. It is one of the trade -offs for what is often a lack of services compared to our urban counter-parts.

It was put to Councillors by one of the consultants early on during the LEP consultation process that we would struggle to attract developers as the big companies such as Meriton, Lend Lease etc had already done all the economic assessments on future population growth and secured all the land that was likely to be developed in the next 10-20 years and it wasn’t in regional NSW-certainly not in the Hilltops Council.

That was and is true but it’s amazing how a significant economic shock can change things. Along came Covid and there has been a flight to the regions by many city dwellers. If not for the long- term then certainly for the short-term including holiday visits.
Finalising the LEP is a tremendous outcome but ultimately it won’t determine how we perform as a Council and a region. The challenge for all of us, Council and the community, particularly the business community is to take advantage of the opportunity provided to us by the Covid outbreak.

Every visitor to our region is a tourist, whether they come to visit family, to shop, or for a sporting event. Just about every business including Council is struggling to find staff at present. We must make our towns and regions a place that is attractive and liveable.

As a Council, we need to listen to business and the community. Sometimes there is not a lot that can be done, but if we don’t listen, we don’t know the problems let alone improve the outcome. Unless an outcome is measured there is unlikely to be an improvement. Businesses measure their outcomes every year via their profit and loss statement. Athletes likewise time their performances in training and in races -so they can improve.

A lot of work has been done over the last 4 years in getting the platform laid down for the Hilltops Council and I think all involved, staff and Councillors as well as the community would agree that it has been difficult. Now that the platform is all but complete, we need to focus on improving our results by measuring the tasks we are performing.

Tony Flanery