The nine Councillors of the new Upper Hunter Shire Council held their first meeting tonight, including the election of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and decisions on which committees Councillors will serve on.
There are three new Councillors – Sue Abbott, Joshua Brown and James Burns. They join re-elected Councillors – Wayne Bedggood, Ron Campbell, Maurice Collison, Lorna Driscoll, Kiwa Fisher and Lee Watts.
Wayne Bedggood was elected as Mayor and Maurice Collison as Deputy Mayor. Both were elected unopposed and have served in these positions since April 2015 when they were elected by the previous Council.
Mayor Bedggood welcomed the new Councillors and reminded everyone of the importance of teamwork.
“This will be an exciting and fruitful term,” Cr Bedggood said.
“We have a lot of big projects underway or about to start, and we all have a lot of work to do over the next four years.
“There is plenty to do. Roll up your sleeves.
“Councillors achieve the most by working together and finding innovative solutions,” Cr Bedggood said.
“Each Councillor has a vote on Council, and every vote should aim to get the best outcome for the community.”
Following the extraordinary meeting for the election of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor positions, the new Council held their first ordinary general meeting which included dozens of decisions such as funding requests and the updating of Council policies.
At the same time as the Local Government elections on 10 September 2016 a Constitutional Referendum was held to ask voters in the Upper Hunter Shire if they wished to change the Mayoral election system to a directly elected Mayor. The votes recorded were: 3309 “YES” votes and 4381 “NO” votes.
The results of the referendum are binding and therefore the Mayor and Deputy Mayor will continue to be elected by Councillors. Councillors now elect a Mayor every two years, instead of annually due to recent changes to the Local Government Act. The Council will determine whether the Deputy Mayor will continue to be elected every year or in line with the Mayoral election.
The nine Councillors have already begun training and planning including an induction meeting last week about their responsibilities and the extensive range of Council’s activities. In October they will undertake a two day seminar on ‘Elected Life’, two familiarisation tours around the Shire and a number of planning workshops for the new Community Strategic Plan (CSP) 2027.
The tours accompanied by senior staff, cover several hundred kilometres and give first hand insight into the challenges posed by the region’s size and diversity and the broad range of Council’s activities and services. The Councillors will talk to staff from road crews to librarians and visit sports grounds, rural reserves, waste depots and construction sites.
General Manager Waid Crockett said these activities were important so Councillors could engage confidently in forward planning such as the CSP 2027.
“Over the coming months, Council will be consulting broadly to guide our Community Strategic Plan 2027, which will document a shared vision of what the community values and aspires to, over the next decade,” Mr Crockett said.
(Information as per Media Release received from Upper Hunter Shire Council on 26 September 2016)