This Annual Report details Ararat Rural City Council’s achievement of the 2017/2021 Council Plan strategic objectives. The role of Council includes:
- Acting as a representative government by taking into account the diverse needs of the local community in decision making;
- Providing leadership by establishing strategic objectives and monitoring their achievement;
- Maintaining the viability of the Council by ensuring that resources are managed in a responsible and accountable manner;
- Advocating the interests of the local community to other communities and governments;
- Acting as a responsible partner in government by taking into account the needs of other communities; and
- Fostering community cohesion and encouraging active participation in civic life.
The Moyston Hall Redevelopment was officially opened by Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria, Danielle Green MP on Friday 8 September 2017. I would like to congratulate the many volunteers who manage the halls and recreation reserves on behalf of Council.
The crew of HMAS Ararat celebrated 75 years of association with its city namesake by exercising its right to Freedom of Entry to Ararat on 16 June 2018. This was the first time Ararat had granted Freedom of Entry to the crew and despite frosty conditions residents turned out in numbers to show their support.
In March 2018 Council received $100,000 funding from the Victorian Government towards the Bill Waterston Skate Park redevelopment. The funding coincided with the confirmation that Independent Concrete Constructions was successful in tendering for building the expansion.
June 2018 saw the Ararat Arts Precinct redevelopment near completion and a much anticipated opening in early August 2018.
Advocacy and Engagement
Over the past year Council has advocated for many projects on behalf of the community, these included:
- Ararat Bypass
- Ararat In Transition Project
- Ararat on the Move
- Rural Road Renewal
- Aradale – New opportunities for an Ararat icon
- Historical Fountain
- Ararat Active City Community Renewal
- Gordon Street Oval
- Ararat Active Link (Ararat Skate Park Precinct)
- Ararat Fitness Centre
- Ararat Hills Trails
Council made a commitment to participate in the Welcoming Cities Network. The Network supports local governments to advance communities where everyone can belong and participate in social, cultural, economic and civic life.
Council continues to work with Municipal Monitor, Ms Janet Dore, who was appointed by Minister for Local Government to oversee the implementation of the recommendations made by the Minister following the Commission of Inquiry into the Ararat Rural City Council.
Further, this annual report represents the second year of reporting against the objectives set out in the Council Plan 2017–2021 which is built on four pillars:
- Our Community
- Our Lifestyle
- Our Economy
- Our Environment
At the Council elections held in October 2016 seven Councillors were elected for a four-year term. The current year witnessed 3 Councillors resign their positions. The Victorian Electoral Commission conducted count backs to fill the vacancies caused by the resignation of Crs Hooper, McLean and Ford with Cr Braithwaite, Cr Hull and Cr Deutsch being elected to these vacancies in November, May and June respectively.
Commission of Inquiry
The Minister for Local Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the governance and financial management of the Council in June 2017. The Commission reported to the Minister on 1 August 2017. Following the Commission’s report, the Minister for Local Government asked the Council to implement the recommendations of the Commission. The Minister also appointed Ms Janet Dore as a Municipal Monitor on 23 August 2017 for a 2-year term. The Council resolved to act on all recommendations of the Inquiry and the accompanying advice from the Minister. A report outlining the status of progress with the implementation of recommendations has been presented to each Council meeting and posted on the Council website. At the conclusion of the reporting period most actions had been completed with all having been commenced and are on track to be completed by agreed target dates.
Council finished the 2017/18 financial year with revenue of $32.84 million and expenditure of $29.77 million resulting in a $3.078 million operating surplus.
Capital works expenditure for 2018 totalled $12.69m across all asset classes of roads, footpaths, drains, open space, buildings and car parks. Major capital spending on buildings included $5.668 million for the Ararat Arts Precinct, $0.264 million for the Tatyoon Recreation Reserve Change rooms, $0.174 million for the Ararat Olympic Pool waterslide and $0.144 million for the Ararat Skate Park.
The Council has begun work on the development of a long term financial plan to improve the long term sustainability of the Councils financial base.
People and Culture
Staff Employee numbers total 125.8 FTE. Employee training and development continues to focus on leadership development and improved occupational health outcomes.
The Council continued to advocate for its community during the year on a range of issues of concern to the Council. Regular meetings were held with local members of Parliament to keep them appraised of local issues and needs. Representations were made to a range of State and Commonwealth Ministers on particular projects. The Mayor also joined other Mayors from the Central Highlands region in advocating to State and Commonwealth governments on a number of occasions.
The Council has, and will continue to work with business associations to find ways to promote local businesses and improve the business environment. Events are an important feature of the Ararat lifestyle and tourism profile and have a significant impact on the local economy. A study completed in 2018 on the Visitor Economy of Ararat showed that the total direct and indirect financial impact and value of tourism in the municipality is $45,400 million. Major public infrastructure projects including the duplication of the Western Highway, expansion of Corrections Victoria facilities and expansion of wind energy generation. Local manufacturing continues to make up a significant part of the employment base. Agriculture remains a major part of the economy and will receive greater water security with projects such as the East Grampians Wimmera Pipeline Project which received State Government support during the year.
Policies and Strategic Documents
The Council developed a number of strategies, plans and policies during the year including a review of the Council Plan 2017-2021 incorporating the Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan. Policies reviewed or developed during the year included Social Media Policy, Procurement Policy, Occupational Health and Safety Policy, the Community Engagement Policy, Rural Heritage Strategy.
Council has adopted a new Community Engagement Policy that outlines the Council’s commitment to engaging the community on key policies and projects. Council celebrates and recognises the extraordinary contribution of community members through various awards and ceremonies, including a Volunteers’ Thank You and Australian Day Awards. The Council’s most significant engagement with the community involved the development of a new rating strategy to guide the Council in the fair and equitable apportionment of rate revenue across the ratepayer base. This involved the appointment of a community based Rating Strategy Advisory Group and Citizen Jury type process to advise the Council on the development of a new rating strategy.
The Council results in the 2018 Community Satisfaction Survey show a drop in community satisfaction with the Council’s performance in advocacy, communication and engagement. The Council will be working to rebuild the community's trust through strategies that will focus on enhanced communication and new ways of engaging. The Council has also commenced a review of all services to ensure Council services continue to meet community needs and are delivered as efficiently as possible.
Environment and sustainability
Council’s vision for the municipality emphasises the protection and enhancement of the natural environment and the protection of biodiversity. Council has continued to work closely with community groups, other public land managers and volunteers to manage public land sensitively and in accordance with agreed master plans. Climate change initiatives have focused on emergency management planning for extreme weather events. We also continue to review and upgrade Council facilities to improve our energy efficiency and reduce emissions and waste.
In an effort to continue to engage with members of the community, in April 2018 Council Meetings were livestreamed for the first time with a reach of over 10,000 hits.
Council continues to participate in and support the Communities of Respect and Equality (CoRE) plan – strategy to Prevent Violence Against Women and Children across the Grampians in partnership with Women’s Health Grampians. Council is also proud to participate in the White Ribbon event held at Alexandra Gardens and the Act@Work Program.
The year ahead will be shaped by the ongoing challenges posed by growing demand and renewing ageing infrastructure. It will also be a year of change in leadership and management for the Council. A new Chief Executive Officer will be appointed early in the next reporting period tasked with the responsibility of assisting the Council to develop a financially sustainable future for the organisation.