News

Proud of team and progress

By Robert Muir

After just on 12 months as Federation Council Mayor, Cr Pat Bourke said he is extremely proud to have been entrusted with the responsibility as mayor.

“The staff, with the support of all of us councillors, are working very hard
alongside our contractors, volunteers and community groups to deliver an
amazing and diverse range of projects on top of our regular service delivery,” he told The Free Press.

“Federation Council has a massive workload, which is not expected to diminish any time soon with the generous State Government grants being awarded, along with dealing with backlog projects and the day-to-day work of council. The amount of information and research, and consultation and dialogue involved now that not only the Mayor, but all Councillors are required to be on top of, I think has increased at least two fold from my former time on Urana Council. Other councillors have said the same. 

“We are certainly up to the challenge and the community will notice that, from our strong councillor presence at all of the community strategic planning meetings, attendances on committees, key events, and in the spread of projects across the community. 

“Comments I have heard including from our Local Member for Albury Greg Aplin MP,
were along the lines that Federation has just gotten on with the job. I must say we have
had fantastic support from Mr Aplin and the current State Government also along the
way since merger, both in funding and in other lobbying and advocacy work on council’s
behalf. They have honoured their commitment in that they would support new
councils.

“We know it’s not all good news, and that developing a new council by incorporating
two former councils whilst also running day to day business, was always going to be a
challenging task.

“The things as councillors and I am sure more so the staff face often
revolve around differences in service types and levels, pricing and costing approaches
such as rates; support levels for groups, demographic and economic differences; staffing
establishments and structures; and cultural differences in both the organisations
themselves and the communities they represent are all challenges to the transition
process. Look there is no doubt they can provide challenges to an effective and timely
integration.”

Answers to other questions put to Mayor Bourke follow.

Like any newly formed council, there can be differences of opinions among
councillors. Care to comment?
I think it is clear that our council is made up of very strong individuals who bring
together the views of our over 12,300 residents in many varied communities – that is one of our top strengths as a collective group. 

Each councillor comes from a different background, with experience in areas from the construction and business industries right through to community development, medical and environmental sustainability.

Our differences in opinion and life experiences is what makes us the multidimensional team that we are and I think as a result our outcomes are a proven testament of the success of that. Councils that are stable politically and present a united front, whilst still
respecting each other’s differences are the ones that take their communities
forward.
What have been the highlights for you and council since September 2017?
What are the biggest issues facing council and what is the present stage of
those issues? For example, a new Corowa Swimming Pool.
I think the highlights for council in the last 12 months are plenty. I think of the
courage to make hard decisions early such as not allowing the compost facility to
be built on the edge of Howlong; putting to rest the uncertainty around the
location of the proposed Corowa Skate Park upgrades; getting an in-principle
decision on moving forward on the new Corowa Pool; spreading the latest round
of State Government funding on offer, right across the Council area; committing
to finalising the Mulwala Industrial Subdivision, and the many projects already
delivered across the Council area in the last 12 months, such as boat ramps,
Howlong Skate Park, and playgrounds and boat ramps across the area, and
developing the first ever Federation Community 10 year Strategic Plan.

How is Fed.Council travelling financially? 

Council has financial challenges in managing a large and growing asset base with
an extremely low rate income. The State Government has not allowed councils
to propose rate increases or look at any equalisation across the new areas until 4
years from the merger. Council’s road network is and will remain an ongoing challenge for us. Council is working hard in assessing these assets to prioritise funding and of course we are always seeking new grants for our road renewals. Council is continuing to work on its long term financial sustainability with a range of actions underway and proposed.

Is the state affected drought biting deep in any Fed.Council areas? If so,
which areas are hardest hit and what can council do about it?
Yes the hardest hit areas are to the north and west of the council area generally.
Council offers support where it can including lobbying Government and the
Murray Darling Basin Authority for example in pushing for water allocations to
grow fodder in irrigated areas, and in ensuring drought support packages are
delivered to the areas in need.

Do you receive good vibes about life in Fed.Council area? 

Yes the community feedback especially in the Community Strategic Planning
workshops told us so much about why people love their communities and the
things they value about their specific areas especially. It is a great time for living
in this area, and council is also working hard on retaining and attracting new
residents in a range of ways.

What are your hobbies? 

I love to get away camping with the family, having just returned from an amazing
trip to the Birdsville races. I also love getting out onto the big Lake Urana when I
can, and enjoying tennis and an occasional ride on the motorbike when time
permits. Having a large family, most of my down time is enjoying life with them
all.

What do the next 12 months hold?
The coming 12 months in particular will remain an important time for
Federation as Council continues to deliver many major projects that will define
the future growth of our region. This work is led by council staff who are a credit
to our organisation and I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank
them for their commitment to the delivery of our unprecedented works program.
Community feedback and engagement remains to be a strong focus of council
and we look forward to continuing to work together to achieve positive
outcomes for Federation Council communities.