February Council Meeting Recap

Published on 28 February 2023

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Upper Hunter Shire Council held its Ordinary Council Meeting for February last night, where several significant recommendations were adopted. Here are some of the highlights from the meeting.

Council endorsed the recommendations from the Corporate Services Committee Meeting held on Friday, February 17, 2023. The recommendations included noting several reports, adopting proposed budget variations, and investigating the validity of creating plans for residential strata titles within the upstairs region of Campbell's Corner, with the intent of offering for sale concepts of both residential and short-term lease accommodation. The proposal will be subject to due diligence to determine its economic viability, suitable funding sources, and compliance with residential building standards.

Council approved a development application (No. 127/2022) for a horse stables complex at 9 Randwick Way, 2 Caulfield Place, 5 Caulfield Place, and 7 Caulfield Place, Scone. The proposal, submitted by Racing NSW, comprises three detached stable buildings, supporting facilities, parking and loading, waste storage, and landscaping. The development will accommodate up to 300 horses in individual stable boxes, and supporting facilities include horse walkers, equine treadmills, wash bays, sand rolls, stores for feed, waste and supplies, laundry, tack room, and staff amenities. The development will have an overall height of 11.165 metres and will be subject to conditions of consent. The proposal was assessed as satisfactory pursuant to relevant planning laws and development control plans.

Council endorsed the recommendation to submit two motions for debate at the 2023 National General Assembly to be held in Canberra from 13-15 June 2023. The first motion advocates for a parliamentary enquiry into the NSW Planning Portal, including the costs to councils administering the portal. The second motion lobbies the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) on behalf of their members for a return to a percentage of the national tax revenue, increasing from 1% to 3%. The ALGA has written to councils seeking motions to guide its board on opportunities for reforming and creating new Federal Government programs and policies that support councils to build stronger communities. Council resolved to consider motions for debate at the meeting held on 30 January 2023.

Council endorsed $15,000 Cultural Activity grants for the 2022/23 financial year. The Cultural Activity Grants program aims to promote and develop cultural/art resources and activities in the Upper Hunter Shire, and facilitate the provision of cultural activities for all residents, including young people, culturally diverse groups, and people living with a disability. The program also seeks to enhance the use of local cultural/art resources, develop community organisational skills from a cultural perspective, and foster closer cooperation between Council and community cultural groups. The full list of supported projects can be found on the February Council meeting agenda on Council's website.

Council will consider amending the Councillor Expenses and Facilities Policy to withhold Councillor fees for non-attendance at meetings, as per the resolution from the Council meeting in January 2023. This would be done by adding a new section to the policy, outlining the amount to be withheld based on meeting quorum, and invoicing councillors for costs incurred from investigations resulting in a censure or referral. The policy will be placed on public exhibition for 28 days and adopted if no submissions are received.

Council supported the investigation of a joint water treatment facility with Muswellbrook Shire Council, and approved an initial budget of $20,000 to commence investigations. The newly formed Project Control Group (PCG) will confirm the technical feasibility of the plant's right location, design and construction in three phases. The involvement of key NSW Government stakeholders has been included to provide early notification of the need for funding and ensure design meets required parameters. Investigations on the Scone Treatment Plant will be put on hold until this joint project concept has been investigated. 

Council heard and endorsed three Notice of Motions at last night's meeting including support for small businesses struggling with rising operating costs, urging the state government to provide rate relief to businesses, representing farmers as small to medium businesses and making it clear to the government that the business community in the Upper Hunter faces various other issues than just economic forces. In another Notice of Motion, it was decided that Councillor attendance at meetings and briefings be included in the quarterly KPI report at the Corporate Services Committee meetings. Lastly, it was decided to raise with the State Member, Dave Layzell, and the Minister for Transport, the need for a right-hand turning lane into the Scone Lawn Cemetery heading North of Scone and to seek funding for a road to run adjacent to the railway line, providing an alternative route to the cemetery. It was noted that this turn is essential for all cars attending a funeral, often in excess of seventy vehicles. Staff is investigating other options to address the issue and will continue to seek Transport for NSW’s reconsideration.