It was 1708 days from the time that I first had the honour of leading this city to when my time was cut short last Thursday. In that time the numbers scare me. I wrote 200,000 words in columns; sat in 200 hours of radio interviews; spent 120 hours in front of TV cameras; sent and received 112,000 e-mails; made and received 26,000 phone calls; had 950 meetings with members of the public and 650 meetings with my fellow Councillors and other civic leaders; performed official duties at 1,000 functions; attended 400 internal meetings; held 18 Mayoral Developers’ Forums; organised 15 Community Leaders’ Breakfasts; wrote 60 limericks and five Dubbo-centric poems; sent out 4,300 tweets and 4,100 Facebook posts and made almost 300 people Aussies.
My primary objective when I became mayor was to increase the levels of communication within Council and between Council and the public. My belief was that if I could improve communications then we could all focus on driving Dubbo forward and I believe these numbers speak for themselves.
In terms of community perceptions, we undertake a Community Needs Survey every two years. Before I became Mayor, our last survey had the satisfaction rating of Councillors at 40 per cent; the satisfaction with Council overall at 53 per cent and satisfaction with Council engagement at 74 per cent. The most recent survey had improved these numbers to 69 percent; 82 per cent and 93 per cent respectively. All incredible increases with a simple focus on communication.
The first test of my communication focus came when we were undertaking the Apex Oval project. We had some rain and it put the project behind time and behind budget. I made an announcement that we were not going to hit the budget or the timeline – which went against every sensible piece of media advice. My approach was that we needed to tell the full story – warts and all – as Council was no more than just a body owned by the people. The public reaction was not one of outrage but one of thankfulness that we were not taking a spin approach. After the announcement we held open days on this project and every major project since and show people exactly what is happening.
The successes of this Council would fill a newspaper – and they have done over the years – but we have had incredible growth and success by this group of Councillors sticking true to the document we all signed at the beginning of our term to focus on Dubbo as our one and only priority. I was never worried that I would pick up a paper and see criticism of Council by one of our own. Behind closed doors and in Council meetings, Councillors had robust debate and brought a number of ideas forward – but once a decision was made we moved on to the next item.
There are a significant number of achievements over the time with many not have been achievable without a cohesive and talented group of people to lead the Council. Highlights include: trucking companies with Dubbo signage; Mugga Hill recreation area; Prisoner 2830 program; meetings with eight airlines over three years to secure direct services to Brisbane, Melbourne and Newcastle; title of number one solar connector in the nation; ongoing sister city relationships with Wujiang and Minokamo; building of the Dubbo Touch Clubhouse with Tooheys New; introduction of ALDI and JB Hi-Fi; successful court battle with Rex; first Mayoral electric vehicle in the country; LGA conference in Dubbo; Archibald exhibition; growth of our saleyards; growth in the housing sector; Plein-Air event; bronze and fibreglass Rhino sculptures; Tour de OROC; Country V City; expansion of Inland Forum; Evocities MTB Series; Wallabies and the Bledisloe Cup; ICC World Cup; Barden Park construction; Artlands 2016; U13 and U19 Cricket Tournaments; Australian Junior Indoor Cricket titles; March of the Cooees; NYE fireworks; Ignite our Centre; Anzac Centenary sleep-out; Gulambula Bridge; Dubbo Chamber of Commerce CEO Series; Talbragar Street roundabout; Greater Fun Run; Wiradjuri street signs; NBN; Tracker Riley bridge and various extensions; population growth of 8.1 per cent; unemployment at 3.2 per cent; nine consecutive record months through the airport and so much more. These are just the brief highlights that are front of mind and I am sure I have forgotten many others.
Of course none of this would have been possible without the best assembly of Councillors I have seen in this nation – or the world. Different backgrounds and interests and experience with a common focus on Dubbo can deliver outstanding results. Our Councillors were the leaders but 300+ staff, led very capably by the General Manager, Mark Riley, were the doers and they continued to deliver on our promises. Thank you to the incredible passion and hard work of the entire Council team.
Most importantly though, thank you to the residents of Dubbo. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for telling us your opinions – whether you agreed or disagreed with us. Thank you for trusting us to lead this city into the future.
And sadly, there the chapter ends. 167 years after Dubbo was gazetted a Village and just shy of our 50-year anniversary as a city, Dubbo City Council is no more. I am the 38th and last Mayor of the City of Dubbo as now, without this talented group of Councillors, the city moves forward into another chapter of Western Plains Regional Council.
Over and out.
Last Mayor of the City of Dubbo