Council CEO highlights year of ‘consolidation’

BUNDABERG Regional Council’s chief executive describes the past financial year as one of “consolidation”.

CEO Stephen Johnston said that despite the emphasis on stability, there had been some challenges it had to manage, such as the state government’s waste levy.

Mr Johnston discusses the council operations as part of the annual report which is expected to be formally approved by councillors today.

Among the financial figures contained in the report is the $223.5 million that the council gained in total revenue.

The year’s total revenue is a minor decrease from the previous financial year, which was $227m.

77 per cent of the council’s revenue came from rates, levies, and associated charges from 45,380 rateable properties.

$12.9m came from grants, subsidies, contributions and donations.

“The foundations that were laid early in this term of council provided a solid base for incremental improvements in what we deliver, how we operate and how we serve the community,” Mr Johnston said in the report.

“11 years after amalgamations we have finally taken the necessary step to have most of our staff based in the Bundaberg CBD.

“East Bundaberg has been transformed to accommodate some of the former Bargara based staff and two floors of the Auswide building have been fully renovated to accommodate the others in contemporary modern office accommodation.”

Other highlights outlined by Mr Johnston included the development of the council’s good news website Bundaberg Now, the Elliott Heads master plan, and the Burnett Heads streetscape plan.

Mr Johnston acknowledged youth unemployment as a long-term struggle for the region, and that the council was attempting to address the challenge by working with CQUniversity and other organisations.

“We have recruited 20 new trainees and two apprentices in the past 12 months across several of our departments,” Mr Johnston said.

“This is on top of the 10 apprentices who continue to be employed over this period, and nine current employees who commenced a traineeship or apprenticeship during this period.

“In this regard as one of the region’s largest employers we are walking the talk.”

He said that the council’s emphasis was on economic development.

It had found ways to increase the capacity at the Port of Bundaberg, and “have been working cooperatively with the state government to maximise those future opportunities.”

The council had good relationships with state and federal governments, through important funding schemes.

This included funding for the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s and Lifeflight’s aeromedical centre which was expected to be operational in the next year.

Mr Johnston also praised the State’s Works for Queensland funding.

He also spoke on the federal government’s Hinkler Regional Deal, which had allocated $173m for the electorate.

“Commitments made under the regional deal will potentially provide major benefits in years to come, hopefully with all levels of governments working in a genuine partnership,” Mr Johnston said.

The state government has yet to commit significant funding to key projects identified in the federal government’s scheme., including a major Quay St upgrade advocated by the council, although this was not referred to specifically by Mr Johnston.

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