At the end of last year, Mayor Tony Foster delivered his annual ‘State of the Council’ report, outlining some of the highlights of the past year and looking forward to 2020. His report is reproduced following:
SOME years ago, I introduced ‘State of the Council’ reports for presentation to Council in November each year. Although not required under legislation, I believed it important to give my view on where we were and indeed where we were going. This initiative is part of my commitment to transparency and I fully appreciate that future Mayors may or may not wish to do the same.
The University of Tasmania recently produced a regional report on population trends for Council areas in Tasmania which showed that populations would decline in 15 Council areas and grow in the other 14 Council areas. In percentage terms Brighton was expected to grow at 1.18 % which means that city status is not that far off.
Growth has been good for Brighton and provides support for our strong, stable financial position. We have long been recognised as an efficient Council in which we continue to provide the lowest rates per head of population and continue to provide a positive 10-year average underlying surplus. As well, based on the Auditor-General’s assessment, we fully fund depreciation on Council assets.
Council’s net equity in 2007 reached $100 million considered quite substantial at the time. Yet just 12 years on, last financial year we’d doubled that achieving a net equity of $200 million. This alone highlights Council’s sound financial management and all credit must go to our elected members and finance staff.
As one of the fastest growing municipalities in the State it is important for Brighton that we are vigilant and robust in our financial management as we face the ever-increasing threat of risk and cost shifting on the part of other tiers of government.
For example, we know of Investment risks, falling interest rates, State Government cost shifting, poor budgeting, inappropriate capital grants, falling Taswater dividends and of course higher community expectations, and this can lead to poor decision-making. But we also have to be mindful of the constant challenge we face and the balanced judgements we must make between expectations and financial efficiency.
We have to be very careful not to take just a short-term focus. Brighton has carefully followed its long-term asset and financial plan. Care is needed to prioritise spending capital expenditure on asset renewal as opposed to building new assets.
Brighton is in good shape and we have high hopes for the future of Brighton.
Still, there are other issues we must face.
Climate change and waste management loom as big challenges for Council and indeed our community, to address. Personally, I do not think we are moving fast enough on waste management and Council will be considering a range of initiatives in the immediate future to address this. The costs and environmental impact of disposing of our waste and recycling are ever-increasing and Brighton is no different from every other municipality. Where possible, we need to reduce our waste, as well as understand the costs associated with treatment and disposal and develop initiatives and processes that can serve us well into the future. This will mean working with other councils and the State Government to achieve the very best outcome for Brighton and our community.
Undoubtedly, we should all be concerned about the impacts of climate change and act accordingly. However, this important issue should be led by State and Federal Governments but at the moment it seems to be more a political debate rather than an environment and social issue that demands attention.
Brighton Council recently adopted a climate change and resilience strategy aimed at demonstrating local leadership in mitigating and planning for climate change, reducing risks, costs and our environmental footprint which we reported on in the last edition of Brighton Community News. The strategy also seeks to work with and empower the community to address climate change issues, minimise harm, reduce environmental impacts and create resilient and sustainable communities.
So, rather than take the dubious political approach of declaring a “climate emergency” Brighton has recognised the scientific community’s broad consensus on climate change and actually adopted a strategy that acknowledges the issue and its impact, We have a range of initiatives that will place us at the forefront in establishing a sustainable future for our community.
Challenges aside, I believe Brighton can look forward to a period of unprecedented growth.
We’ve long been aware of our current and projected population growth and we’ve factored this into our planning and development processes and strategies. That’s why we pushed hard for projects like the new Brighton High School, the Bridgewater Bridge replacement and the upgrading of the Pontville sports ground precinct, as well as housing and economic development along with the upgrading of community services and facilities.
Over the next two decades, the growth will position Brighton as significantly larger than Burnie and similar in size to Devonport. The challenge is to ensure we are able to provide the services and facilities to meet the needs of our future community. As well as local services, schools and education facilities, we’ll need significantly enhanced public transport, community safety, health and ancillary services and much more, if we are to cater for the predicted increase in Brighton’s population.
Brighton’s economy has recorded considerable expansion in recent years largely driven by growth in the transport, postal and warehousing, and health care and social assistance industries. Transport, postal and warehousing is anticipated to continue to grow strongly into the future as Brighton’s fastest-growing industry.
Intensive agriculture and primary production provide significant opportunities, as well as value-adding and supply chain initiatives. There are also opportunities for development in areas including the production of green, renewable energy, as well as in education and new technologies.
Housing construction is providing a major economic stimulus, as well as local employment opportunities. Brighton is currently adding more than one home a day to our housing stock and this is helping locals into new houses as well as attracting newcomers to the municipality.
In the past financial year, Council’s Planning Authority approved 292 dwellings – that’s approximately 1.2 dwellings per working day. This equates to approximately $55 million invested in residential development in our community, or $150,000 every single day of the year. Every second day, Council approved a new building lot, in total, 149 subdivision lots and seven strata lots over the year.
This trend is continuing and particularly with the involvement of Centacare Evolve Housing and other developers showing no signs of slowing, as well as commercial and industrial developments underway or planned, the future is bright.
Brighton Council has a clear strategy to meet the projected growth and to manage and cater to the expectations of our community.
I would like to thank our elected representatives and also pay tribute to our management and staff. Brighton is privileged to have been able to attract some of Tasmania’s best talent and retain them to work for our community ready and indeed, enthusiastic, to play their part and progress their roles as we transition to this new era.
We have every reason to have great confidence in the future.