Council balances service delivery and infrastructure provision to deliver healthy surplus for 2016/17
Toowoomba Regional Council today held a special meeting to adopt its 2016/17 Annual Report.
Mayor Paul Antonio spoke of the organisation’s financial resilience despite a tight fiscal environment.
“Our strong and diverse economy, coupled with a major infrastructure boom is making us the envy of regional Australia. This growth is fantastic, but also provides a challenge for Council to manage service-delivery expectations with infrastructure provision for the future,” Mayor Antonio said.
The report shows that Council maintained its financial rating by the Queensland Treasury Corporation as ‘sound with a neutral outlook’ and delivered a higher than budgeted surplus.
Finance and Business Strategy Portfolio Chair, Cr Mike Williams said the operational surplus was just over $7 million and the Fiscal surplus, including capital sat at $27 million.
Cr Williams also pointed to debt reduction of $11.6 million in the financial year past, despite rising costs. “At the end of June 2017, Council was responsible for $4.5 billion worth of property, plant and equipment. We believe only in good debt, - that is debt we have the ability to repay over a reasonable amount of time, and that is incurred on essential major projects across infrastructure, water, wastewater projects,” he said.
As well as outlining Council’s financial position, the report, which includes a video from each Councillor, outlines a long list of Council’s achievements for the previous 12 months.
Mayor Antonio said a local government’s responsibilities were varied but a well-planned and maintained infrastructure system is critical for success. “Over the past 12 months we worked on significant infrastructure projects to the value of $79 million -that is the sign of a region with a bright future. “Water security is also key to our growth and last year, Council supplied just under 14,700 megalitres of treated drinking water to our residents - an increase on last year equivalent to over 660 Olympic pools.”
“Our new Greater Toowoomba Waste Management Facility was recognised as one of the most progressive in the country, winning the Innovation Award at the 2017 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Innovation and Excellence Awards after reducing the number of loads to landfill by 72% in its first year of operation.”
Mayor Antonio said he was also constantly impressed by the innovation and ingenuity of the region’s local business owners, Chambers of Commerce, Progress Associations and not-for-profit groups. “My Council colleagues and I recognise these organisations are best qualified to identify opportunities and find solutions for the community. Therefore, I was delighted by the Community Economic Development Grant Program this year and look forward to watching our regional communities prosper,” Mayor Antonio said.
The report also references the region’s tourism performance and points to the Carnival of Flowers as being recognised as the best national major festival at the Australian Tourism Awards.
“During the past 12 months we were recognised by online travel site, Expedia as one of Australia’s most beautiful regions and Council will never lose sight of the importance of our liveability.” Council maintained 560 parks and over 80 hectares of sporting facilities in the 2016/17 year.
“We are proud of our reputation as a region that cultivates the best parks and open space to be found anywhere and we continue to build on this,” Mayor Antonio said.
Mayor Antonio also spoke of the region’s 13 libraries which lend more than one million books a year, and the strength of Council’s international relationships. “Toowoomba celebrated 25 years of friendship with our sister City, Takatsuki, in 2016, with student exchanges between our cities injecting close to $2 million annually into the Toowoomba economy,” Mayor Antonio said.
Recognising the opportunities in Asia, Council has also signed an MOU to pursue economic initiatives with the Yuecheng District, in China during 2016/17.
“Our region is maturing and indicative of this, last year our planning area progressed more than 4000 development applications, and we have also been working to provide incentives for improving the amenity of the CBD.”
Some of the major city and region shaping infrastructure projects over the past 12 months highlighted by the Mayor included: The Toowoomba Railway Parklands Priority Development Area (PDA) and Goods Shed redevelopment;
The Ruthven Street north upgrade;
The City Hall upgrade and Annexe development; Remarkable retail redevelopments including the Grand Central upgrade; The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing;
Continued work on the 1800 hectare Toowoomba enterprise hub;
The Pulse Data Centre; Work on local intermodal hub facilities with the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project getting the green light.
“The broad list of projects being progressed by either government or private industry goes on and on, there really never has been a better time to live in or invest in the Toowoomba region,” he said.
Mayor Antonio also paid tribute to all residents who, in their own communities make the region a better place to live.
“Volunteers are the backbone of our region and their ongoing commitment enhances social cohesion and a sense of purpose within our community,” he said
The Mayor closed by thanking his fellow Councillors executive management team and Council staff and pointing to a bright year ahead.
To view the annual report, head to www.tr.qld.gov.au/ar