Major infrastructure projects, a focus on young people and the success of cultural events such as the North West Film Festival are among Inverell Shire Council mayor Paul Harmon’s proudest achievement over the past year.
“Looking back on 2018 as a year for council, there’s been so many wonderful projects completed. You sort of go ‘where do you start and where do you stop?’” he said.
“Certainly some of the highlights would include the Otho Street redevelopment - getting that completed ahead of schedule and on budget, and the feedback from the community about how that looks, I think that’s a wonderful achievement for council and the council staff who actually carried out those jobs.”
Spurring mixed community opinions, Otho Street was transformed during March and April, with the construction of a median strip and the planting of chanticleer pear trees and pin oaks in replacement of the controversial London plane trees. Cr Harmon remained optimistic throughout, and was thrilled with the final result.
He was also proud of a wide variety of free youth programs the council offered throughout the year, after partnering with the NSW government, receiving a $50,000 grant to keep kids entertained and active during the school holidays. Activities included free kayaking tours, a careers expo, computer building workshops and a wildly popular colour run.
“I’m hoping that we are successful in getting the grant funding again to run those successful youth programs,” Cr Harmon said. The council is already offering youth cooking classes, an introductory course in Computer Aided Design and an opportunity to try indoor sports this month.
Cr Harmon felt several local road projects proved successful in 2018, including the new Neil McCosker bridge between Graman and Ashford and the rehabilitation of Graman Road in the Wallangra area. He also listed the North West Film Festival and grant funding to improve local sporting facilities among the town’s biggest achievements.
“It is a list that is just endless, but there’s some of the ones that come to mind,” he said.
He agreed that the drought has been one of the major obstacles for the year, and will continue to be a challenge in 2019. However he noted that “a huge tick” in Inverell’s favour is the success in securing $1 million in funding from the federal government's $81 million Regional Drought Communities Program. With a strong focus on the villages, Cr Harmon said the council’s already receiving quotes on projects such as the Delungra CWA Hall and Ashford Medical Centre.
“Villages are the lifeblood of our area, so it’s important that we maintain that morale that could be starting to slip in those villages,” he said.
“We’ve got a number of quotations that we’re releasing weekly so we can get this money expended within the time. It’s going to flow into our community and we’re very proud that we’re able to partner with the federal government to make that happen.”
Cr Harmon is excited about the year ahead, and feels locals have a lot to look forward to.
“A lot of people are very proud to be part of our shire, because of the way council is able to get in, get its work done, and if we get grant money we’re able to stretch it and almost make it go further than what’s been anticipated,” he said.
“There’s a number of big projects that are happening this year, and I’m looking forward to them being delivered on time, on budget, and they will again provide services for not only our community, but also for visitors to come and enjoy Inverell Shire.”