Wellington Shire Council’s new budget unveiled

Ben McArthur

Wellington Shire Council’s new budget was unveiled at Tuesday’s ordinary meeting.

Wellington Shire Mayor, Ian Bye called the budget a return to basics, focusing on essential infrastructure, maintenance, and services while facing increased expenses and limited revenue growth.

However, Northern Ward Councillor, John Tatterson opposed the budget, due to what he labelled “ongoing cost issues.”

In his opposition, Cr Tatterson listed various projects he thought were too expensive, such as lighting for Sale Oval.

“While the management of the oval is unresolved, I don’t think we should be investing this significant amount of capital funding ($500,000) and it certainly seems more than what was spent on the Stratford, Rosedale and Cowwarr lighting projects,” he said.

“The key reason for opposing the budget is the Urban Paths Plan has reduced from a forward plan of $1 million to $1.5 million over the next three years down to $500,000.

“It’s a really key program and I’m really disappointed to see that drop back to $500,000.

“The plan was intended to go for some 20 years to address gaps in their network.

“Most of the old parts of our key towns don’t have suitable paths and this plan was looking to address that.”

Fellow Northern Ward Councillor, Carolyn Crossley said she was disappointed in Cr Tatterson’s opposition and argued council had been efficient.

Cr Bye said councils across Australia felt the pinch, particularly in regional and rural areas, where cost pressures were being compounded.

“It’s becoming harder to tender for big projects and infrastructure because it’s costing more than it ever has. That’s why it was so important this year we compiled a responsible budget that returned to delivering on core services.”

Key highlights from the budget include:

Community facilities: The budget includes allocations for the development of the Sale Integrated Centre for Children and Families, with $5.575 million allocated over two financial years for construction. The new centre will provide 122 new childcare and kindergarten places, multi-purpose consulting suites, and meeting and activity spaces for early childhood services and community use.

Additionally, plans are underway for a $2.3 million roundabout at Gibsons Road and Cobains Rd in Sale. The redevelopment of the Aqua Energy Leisure Centre is also prioritised, with $16.796 million set aside for the project, which, among other things, will result in a new indoor pool with a revised depth profile and entry ramp, upgraded change room facilities, 24-hour gym access and a zero-depth water play area.

Projects such as installing LED lights at Maffra Lawn Tennis Club ($365K) and upgrading change rooms at Maffra’s Cameron Sporting Complex ($920K) are planned, dependent on securing external funding. Additionally, $1.14 million is allocated for improvements at Yarram Pool.

Waste management: The budget includes $1.5 million for expanding the Kilmany Landfill to accommodate waste disposal needs.

Road repairs: Due to recent emergency events like floods and bushfires, significant funds for road and essential repairs including annual road resealing and re-sheeting programs have been allocated $21.1 million, while $5.6 million has been budgeted for bridges and drainage.

In addition to the capital works program, council will spend a further $7.8 million in rural areas on regular road maintenance programs, including roadside vegetation management, fire breaks, rural road reseals and drainage, and gravel roads.

 

Key road projects earmarked for the upcoming financial year include:

Duke St, Yarram Reconstruction – $1.25M

Velore Rd, Kilmany Reconstruction- $1.2M

Sale Toongabbie Rd Stage 3 Reconstruction – $900K

Dargo Emergency Slip Rectification, Upper Dargo – $800K

Mills St, Heyfield Rehab – $750K

Sale Cowwarr Rd Stage 2 Reconstruction- $600K

Glencairn Rd, Licola Slip Rehabilitation – $600K

Heyfield Seaton Rd reconstruction – $600K

Council’s expenses have been marked up by inflation. Still, revenue is restrained by the rate cap of 2.75 per cent (as set by the state government) and slowing operational grant income from state and federal funding sources.