As the Christmas break approaches, it is an opportune time to pause and reflect on the year just passed, and to think about the year ahead.
2022 has been defined by exceptional weather, the continuing influence of Covid and difficult economic conditions. The Lithgow Local government area has not been excluded from any of these. The Council has had to provide the usual day-to-day services, while dealing with these challenges.
During 2022 the Council has continued to deliver quality projects that will shape the future of the Lithgow local government area including:
- A new Library Façade and awning was built, an investment in our Libraries of which 33% of the community are members.
- Youth programs were delivered during Youth Week and School Holidays.
- Solar panels were installed at the JM Robson Aquatic Centre. During 2021/22, 12,800 people visited the JM Robson Aquatic Centre taking advantage of the facilities and programs offered, including Learn to Swim and Aqua Aerobics.
- “Lithgow Live & Local” was delivered. The program has provided professional development for local musicians, created a live music database and a program of events across the local government area.
- The Wallerawang No. 1 Sewerage Pumping Station was renewed to cope with additional flows from new development in Wallerawang, reduce the running costs of the plant and provide greater storage volumes during emergencies and shutdowns.
- A comprehensive leak detection survey was completed across the entire Council water reticulation scheme. This project provided the Council with valuable information to assist with prioritising asset maintenance works.
- The Resource Recovery Centre building which will be operational in 2023 was constructed. 44,155t of waste was received at the Lithgow Solid Waste Facility during 2021/22, the Centre will change the way we process recyclables and waste moving forward.
- Cullen Bullen residences were readied for connection to the new Sewer Treatment Plant. This project will be completed in the first half of 2023.
- The Portland Foundations Trunk Main Infrastructure project was completed. This will allow for growth in Portland including the proposed Portland Foundations development and has included the replacement of mains that causes pressure reductions and breakages in Portland.
- Cullenbenbong Road Causeway in the Kanimbla Valley was reconstructed to a higher standard.
- Works have been completed on the replacement of Crown Creek and Airly Bridges in the Capertee Valley. Planning, studies, and the approvals process commenced for the replacement of Red Hill Bridge, Palmers Oaky and Charles Street Bridge Rydal.
- The “Made in Lithgow” was installed in Cook Street Plaza. The installation will re-energize the night-time economy providing opportunities for Pop-Up markets, Events and Live Music.
- Planning commenced for the replacement of the Main Street footpath and revitalisation of the CBD from Lithgow Street to Bridge Street.
- A number of major public events were conducted including Halloween, Lithglow and Opera at the Union Theatre.
- The Council advocated for continuation of the Lithgow Community Private, which delivers much needed specialist medical services.
- Significant work has been undertaken to provide interim access into the Wolgan Valley and support for the community and businesses because the only access road to it failed.
- Bathing amenities and other services were provided to assist the community through the gas outage.
The impacts of 2022 will carry forward into 2023 and beyond. Indeed, it is likely that the operating conditions for councils will never return to the past and this makes it critical for Lithgow Council to re-set so that it is future ready.
The council has been working hard to not only repair infrastructure, but to find long-term solutions to ensure that communities such as Wolgan Valley, Newnes and Glen Davis are not isolated in the future. Some infrastructure repairs will take time due to resourcing of materials and contractors, and the complexity of the problem. The Council understands the frustrations of the community and appreciates the patience shown as work continues with experts to resolve issues and applying for funding to ensure long-term rectification.
Lithgow City Council is experiencing the same financial challenges as other rural and regional councils. In 2022, extensive community consultation occurred about the options for Council’s ongoing delivery of services, within its limited financial capacity. It was explained that tightening the Council’s purse strings even further and looking for continuous productivity would not, on their own, make the council sustainable. Once community opinion was known, the Council decided to apply for a special rate variation, because that is required if we are to be sustainable, able to deliver services, address backlog issues with roads and other damaged infrastructure and transform the local economy.
The above is just an overview of the many wonderful projects and programs that the Council has delivered in 2022.
I thank you for your support. I also acknowledge the hard work and dedication of my fellow councillors, the Council staff, and the many volunteers in our community. The support provided by other levels of government has also been of great benefit. Many of the projects referred to above were funded through a range of government programs.
It would be nice to wish that next year will be less challenging. Be assured, however, that whatever the circumstances are – good or bad – Lithgow Council will continue to work tirelessly to deliver quality services.
On behalf of my fellow Councillors, and the management and staff of Council, I wish you a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.