Council’s annual report shines light on region

Council's annual report can now be found on the organisation's website. Picture: Contributed 263440_01

by Julian Lehnert

The North Burnett Regional Council presented its 2020/2021 annual report as part of its final meeting of the year earlier this month, with the 97-page document now available to all residents.

Council’s annual report features a breakdown of many of the local government organisation’s operations, covering topics such as roads, water, grants, service delivery and employee salaries.

The report remarks that, due to the North Burnett’s precarious position as a sparsely-populated region, service delivery has been reliant on government grants for the past years – a trend which will likely continue in the future.

The report identified 10,599 members of the population in the region, with only 6,291 of those being ratepayers.

Individual earnings were averaged at $33,941 per annum – reportedly the lowest disposable income per capita in Australia.

Council’s report strongly featured its ‘Plan for Generations’ – a three-stage plan to empower the organisation, the population and the region as a whole for the next five years, which was announced in July this year.

It reports that 52 kilometres of bitumen roads around the region were resealed this year at a cost of $900,000, and 8.3 kilometres of bitumen roads were rehabilitated, valued at $1.9 million.

Council crews also tackled the issue of ageing bridges in the region, with five bridges receiving maintenance and remediation works valued at around $966,500.

Council’s community grant funding program reportedly assessed 115 funding applications and awarded $117,000 of grant funding to groups across the region, facilitating upgrades to halls, artworks, and more.

Water was identified as one of the most crucial amenities in the region, with Council working in several towns to upgrade and maintain the delivery of fresh water and disposal of sewerage.

The local government organisation says that, this year, it successfully upgraded Mundubbera’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, spent more than $1 million in funding on the replacement of unreliable water mains throughout the region, provided six towns in the region with bulk water dispensers, replaced Mount Perry’s sewerage treatment plant and successfully campaigned the Federal Government for funding to facilitate the replacement and upgrade of Biggenden’s water treatment plant.

Council’s annual report also revealed the salaries of many of its key employees, recording that, in the 2020/21 period, three senior contract employee positions earned a total of $700,747.78.

The salaries of councillors were also made public, revealing that former Mayor Rachel Chambers earned $108,222 this year, with Deputy Mayor Robbie Radel making $62,435; all other Councillors earned $54,110, for a total salary expenditure of $441,207.

Lastly, Council’s annual report describes the organisation’s ongoing battle with its budget and finances, stating that they are still faced with a $11,375,449 deficit this year – a -31.80 per cent operating surplus.

The end of the year for Council was marked with the departure of two figureheads of the organisation – Mayor Rachel Chambers and CEO Rachel Cooper.

Mayor Chambers, who left the North Burnett Council on 11 December, wrote in her final address in the annual report that she hopes the past year has set the region on a path of improvement.

“Council and Community have come together to be a formidable voice in Queensland for the sake of our community’s future generations and I have great faith that this wake-up call has given us the motivation, external resources, and a short time frame to work as one into the future,” she wrote.

“The region will emerge from this better in the long run.

“[A]s I end my tenure at the end of 2021, I’d like to say it has been the honour and privilege of my life to represent the North Burnett community.

“All the very best North Burnett, I’ll be cheering loudly from the sidelines.”

Council’s annual report can be found on northburnett.qld.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/NBRC-2020-2021-Annual-Report-DIGITAL-OPTIMISED.pdf.