Mrs Jane Bange
Budget time is upon us again and the focus for many Elected Members is the task of translating our ‘Declaration of a Climate Emergency’ (made in October 2019) into tangible actions so as to mitigate against the effects of climate change. These actions require additional funding but are vital and, longer term, will serve to save Council money as well as diminish our carbon footprint.
Also important to me is to steadily clear our asset maintenance backlog. I have heard some Elected Members say that this backlog needs to be pushed out in order to pay for actions that address climate change. I disagree. This is akin to the old argument of jobs OR environment (used very effectively to promote and justify the development of the flawed Adani coalmine). I believe it’s a case of both, not one over the other.
So our challenge, as your local representatives, is to tackle BOTH climate change mitigation AND address the asset maintenance backlog (before replacement is needed, a far costlier exercise). Of course this isn’t easy when there is strong pressure from some quarters to keep rate rises low.
I have never stood on a platform of low rates. I believe residents want ‘value-for-money’ rates, that is, a willingness to pay a bit more for something that is worthwhile. There are obviously differences of opinion as to what is ‘worthwhile’. To my mind, it is about providing much needed, quality infrastructure - such as footpaths, interesting playgrounds, up-to-date sporting fields with facilities that cater for both male and female players, well-maintained parks and reserves, and excellent library facilities - while maintaining the basics of rubbish collection, stormwater management and roads.
I also think there needs to be a bit of cream on this budget cake, in the form of public art (the very poor relation of public sport). Art enables us to know more about ourselves, to promote a public identity, to entertain, puzzle and perplex at times. I will always be a strong advocate for putting a bit more money into public art and I have indeed made a very modest budget bid this year to increase our annual public art funding of $25,000 to $35,000, plus an additional $5000 a year for maintenance.
Working through and finalising an annual budget is never easy but I feel heartened by the goodwill I see from the majority of Elected Members to view climate change as a real threat and so look through a lens which is more than just the next budget or electoral cycle. We need to take actions now that will assist us longer term to cope better with the detrimental effects of climate change - a threat to our communities that I trust no one denies after this horrific fire season.
I certainly hope that we continue, as we did last year, not to automatically select the lowest rate rise but to value, and therefore fund, projects that matter to our communities, with the longer term outlook always in sight.