Helicopter View

Helicopter View

16.12.2016 Last Mayor of the City of Dubbo: Weekender 2016 Year in Review

“Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.” Forever more, no review of Dubbo for this year will be complete without the analysis of Council amalgamations and the consideration of Hitchen’s razor. Hitchen took the Latin proverb above and asserted that the truthfulness of a claim lies with the one who makes the claim; if this burden is not met, the claim is unfounded and opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it.

Keep that in mind when you consider the strength of Dubbo earlier this year. The last year as Dubbo City Council saw the magical 200,000 number through the airport cracked for the first time ever with 203,294 passengers. An increase of 7.6 per cent over the previous year and we now boast direct flights to seven destinations from four different carriers. The median house price hit a record high of $345,000 – an increase of 7.8 per cent – and our days on market of 69 days is well ahead of the Evocities average of 146 days. 782 Development Applications were processed with a value close to $200 million which was an increase of 9.5 per cent. Unemployment was at the low rate of 3.8 per cent which was a 5 per cent improvement over the previous year and again better than the State average. I can list many other indicators that show the strength of our economy. High motel occupancy rates; strong figures in tourism and visitation; increasing average spend per visitor per night; increasing retail expenditure… The positives were in every direction.

In community surveys, we found that 93 per cent of residents were happy with the ability to be involved in Council decisions; 82 per cent were satisfied with the overall operations of Council and 69 per cent were satisfied with the performance of Councillors.

This all hardly sounds like cause to throw out a Council – so the alternative must be fantastic. Using Hitchen’s razor, the State Government must have some extraordinary evidence when it made its claim that amalgamations would put “downward pressure on rates” and “provide many benefits to communities.” No evidence was forthcoming as we should all, according to our Premier, just “consider the big picture.” Whatever that means. In fact the evidence against amalgamations was overwhelming. In a brief analysis of the 26 amalgamations that occurred from 2001 to 2004, some startling statistics came to light. Only 26.9 per cent of the amalgamated Councils were declared Fit for the Future; 75 per cent had population growth below the State average and 76.9 per cent of those Councils applied for additional rate increases – with the average increase above rate pegging sitting just over 30 per cent.

As much as I would prefer to talk about some of the wonderful achievements of Dubbo in the 2016 year, the reality is that one event alone that occurred this year overshadows all other events. The legacy that this State Government has forever left the communities of Dubbo and Wellington is the amalgamation that 80 percent of people didn’t want. The result will be the loss of identity for Wellington and the loss of momentum for Dubbo. Sure, the bins will keep being collected and water will keep coming from our taps (even if we have to boil it before drinking it) but I can’t help but think of how this column might have read if we didn’t have the amalgamation that was forced onto us this year.

Our Councillors are proud of the fact that we have left the City in a better condition because of our involvement. This State Government cannot even dream of making the same statement. Bring on September 2017!

Mathew Dickerson

Last Mayor of the City of Dubbo