MUSWELLBROOK Shire Council’s 2018/2019 Budget continues to focus on economic diversification, livability and long-term sustainability within the shire.
That’s according to council’s spokesperson for finance Cr Scott Bailey, who released its contents at the Muswellbrook Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) breakfast on Wednesday morning.
“The budget recognises the need for forward planning to ensure the long-term future of the local economy and makes key investments in infrastructure, information systems, education, job creation, events and town revitalisation,” he said.
The newly-formed Upper Hunter Economic Development Corporation takes on the responsibility of driving growth and diversification of the Upper Hunter economy and will be supported by a $1 million annual allocation.
Council’s executive manager of innovation and economic development Gerry Bobsien will be appointed as the inaugural executive officer.
The budget allocates $1.9 million for an extension of the University of Newcastle’s Upper Hunter Campus in Bridge Street, while $1 million has been set aside for the internal refurbishment of Loxton House and $100,000 to adapt Weidmann Cottage into a café and headquarters for visitor information Services.
Council will also construct a new state-of-the-art Animal Care Facility in Denman Road at a total project cost of $1.2 million.
Recognising Denman as a fast-growing tourist centre, council has apportioned $1.25 million for the first stage of the Denman Main Street renewal program, $1.94 million for the reconstruction of Denman Memorial Hall and funding for design and development of the proposed Denman geothermal baths together with funding for the installation of an RV dump point.
The first stage of the $7 million Aquatic Centre Masterplan has been allocated with $3.125 million for construction works associated with the upgrade, which will ultimately see a new learn to swim pool, sauna, spa, children’s wet/dry play space and extension of the 25m pool to a 50m covered pool with new amenities.
Council has renewed its contract with JR Richards for the collection of domestic kerbside waste and anticipates the introduction of a food and organic waste stream in the future, with the aim of reducing the cost of the state government Waste Tax.
A further $4.8 million is allocated to complete the Recycled Water Treatment Works with commissioning expected in 2019.
The existing sewerage treatment plant is expected to start de-commissioning in the 2018/19 financial year after 84 years of ongoing use.
Sustainability continues to be an important area of focus for council with $256,000 earmarked to continue works at Muscle Creek and $150,000 towards council’s goal of drawing 40 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Events are an important factor in the transformation of Muswellbrook into a thriving regional centre.
Council has allocated $1 million to progress the design and development of a performance venue and a further contribution of $50,000 in support of Muswellbrook Race Club.
Additional funding has been approved for the Blue Heeler Film Festival and the renamed Noisy Heeler Festival as both are refined for future growth.
“Muswellbrook Shire Council’s 2018/19 Budget reflects strong leadership as the economy grows and the region transitions into the future,” Cr Bailey said.
“Council commends the budget to the community.
“We encourage local ratepayers to consider the proposed program for the next financial year and to have their say by June 11, 2018, by visiting council’s website.”