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Find out about the 2021/22 Budget, including a rates summary and key major projects.
The net overall increase in rates and charges will be 2.76% for an urban residential property. This means the majority of residential ratepayers will have an increase of increase of $91.43 a year, or $1.76 a week, after discount, which includes all rates and charges
The increase in the general rate is 2.5%.
Read about more of our major projects here.
My fellow Councillors, staff, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to table Toowoomba Regional Council’s 2021-22 Budget and Operational Plan.
I present today’s documents detailing our forward schedule of capital works and operational programs with far greater confidence than I did 12 months ago. Last year’s Budget was framed amid great uncertainty caused by the early phase of the global Coronavirus pandemic. Governments and businesses were forced to adjust plans in a desperate time. Australia, particularly Queensland and our Region, have so far escaped the dire health problems that have afflicted many other parts of the world. As a result, we also have been spared the very worst effects of the economic and social consequences related to the pandemic.
I acknowledge our health workers, emergency services personnel and community support agencies for their extraordinary work over the past year and their ongoing efforts to keep residents safe.
While no one can accurately predict the course of the Coronavirus, Council has managed to continue working in accordance with our long-term financial parameters to ensure we continue to Budget for essential capital works programs and services that support our communities for the coming year and well into the future.
This Budget is the result of nine months of deliberations drawing on the combined talents of Council’s Financial Services Team in collaboration with all operational areas across Council. I thank my Council colleagues for their input over the past year that ensured we kept all our essential services open and functioning. Our team approach has kept the focus on delivering for our community. We have learnt a great deal about tailoring our services to meet our residents’ desires in a challenging year. This highlights what can be achieved by working together. I’m proud of how Council’s operational efforts have supported our community.
In our role as community builders, I’m proud to announce that today Toowoomba Regional Council is unveiling a $551 million financial plan that will ensure we maintain and upgrade existing services and facilities while planning for a brighter future in one of Queensland’s most productive and desirable areas. I am positive that today’s program will build on our previous year’s economic stimulus packages that were designed to complement state and federal government economic relief measures to help our community.
Council’s solid financial footing has allowed us to develop a $187.1 million capital program along with an operating Budget component of $364 million.
We are mindful of maintaining a responsible and calculated financial approach in our Budget planning and delivery.
A capital allocation of $91.8 million for asset renewal in this Budget emphasises Council’s strong focus on investing in infrastructure renewal programs across our extensive water, wastewater and road networks, plus other community assets, to look after what we have built in the past. Council has a legal and moral obligation to maintain its existing infrastructure and our ability to manage our $5.4 billion asset base across 13,000km² is a key performance indicator by which we are judged by the Queensland Audit Office and, more broadly and ultimately, the Queensland Parliament.
In addition, $66.7 million is set aside for upgrade projects, while $28.6 million has been allocated for new capital projects across the region.
We have a responsibility to plan for maintenance and upgrades to our existing infrastructure to guarantee the long-term viability of essential services to residents. We are mindful that every new asset comes with its own ongoing maintenance costs. Council has considered balancing outlays on renewal and upgrade programs with the demonstrated need for new facilities and infrastructure. As a result, there is a keen focus around the timely delivery of projects listed in the annual capital works program. Council’s overall operational and capital expenditure parameters are based on our long-term (10 year) Financial Sustainability Plan (LTFSP), which is not only adopted by Council, but overseen by the Department of Local Government, the Queensland Treasury Corporation and Queensland Audit Office. The LTFSP is a forecasting tool that Council uses to ensure set financial parameters are maintained in the short and long term, thereby ensuring ongoing financial sustainability. The LTFSP is continually revised to track Council’s financial progress as well as being used to undertake scenario analysis for annual Budget developments, Budget reviews, capital works programming and operational service delivery assessments.
Council will deliver the balance of the projects under our dedicated $50 million Pandemic Response Investment program, valued at $17.7 million.
We are scheduling future projects to ensure our local workforce can still bid for and deliver these works. Council designed this program of work to complement, not compete with, other private projects. Stimulating local employment is one of the most constructive and immediate ways Council can help revive and strengthen our regional economy.
Council has spent $19 million, or 90% of total expenditure to date, with local suppliers on the Pandemic Response Investment program.
Last year’s move to enhance our Procurement Policy in order to offer local firms the best chance to do business with us continues to pay dividends. We are committed to working with our local suppliers. In the current financial year to May 2021, Council has spent $137 million with local suppliers. This equates to 51% of our total expenditure, with additional payments to be made in June.
Budget planning in line with our LTFSP has enabled Council to deliver a 2.5% increase in the general rate. Disciplined planning has allowed Council to deliver a consistent average general rate increase for the past seven years. This is a measured and responsible rate rise, with a net overall increase in rates and charges of 2.76% for an urban residential property. This means that most residential ratepayers will have an increase of $91.43 a year, or $1.76 a week, after discount, which includes all rates and charges.
Today’s Budget is the result of consistent planning employed by Council over the past 13 years to ensure we have the strong financial footing to enable future councils to confidently service our growing Region, with the added financial strength to counter unforeseen events, like the Coronavirus pandemic.
Going into the 2021-22 financial year, Council is budgeting for an operating surplus of $783, 168.
The Queensland Treasury Corporation has maintained Council’s credit rating as Sound with a Neutral Outlook.
The Budget reflects the priorities outlined in Council’s Operational Plan (2021-22 financial year) and our Corporate Plan (2019-2024).
Few organisations deliver the range of services that local governments provide for their customers every day, from safe drinking water, sewerage and rubbish collection to roads, parks and a host of amenities such as libraries, galleries, community and cultural centres to a range of planning activities and services to safeguard public health and safety, among many others.
In the coming year, the major areas of capital expenditure will include:
Planning for long-term water security is imperative for our growing Region. Supplying safe drinking water to all residents is an essential and non-negotiable service. Striking the balance between ensuring water security and affordability is a key consideration for our Region’s medium and long-term water solutions.
In addition to supplying residential water, Council is investigating viable water supply options to support business and industry, particularly for major investments in medicinal cannabis and large-scale horticultural shed operations that are planned at the Toowoomba Trade Gateway. We need to harness more efficient water use and be extra vigilant with our water management. A focus on regional water security will help to realise growth opportunities that are emerging in agriculture, value-added product, advanced manufacturing and alternative energy operations. Viable water supply options will ensure we cater for growth and contribute to the state and national economies.
Council in the coming year will seek public input on aspects of our new Planning Scheme, which will guide how land is used and developed in the next 20 years. This work, under the Toowoomba Region Futures banner, also delivers key strategic planning strategies that will guide population growth and future job opportunities. Our Region has seen considerable growth since the adoption of the current scheme in 2012 with major projects, such as the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport and the $1.6 billion Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, now operational. These will be complemented in coming years by the construction of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail.
This is in addition to ongoing expansion in areas such as the Toowoomba Trade Gateway and other areas of the Region that are attracting new or emerging industries and developments.
Council is dedicated to facilitating growth across the Region. Infrastructure charges are one of the levers available to Council to encourage development that aligns with strategic objectives. A Toowoomba CBD incentive is in place to encourage substantial development, which contributed to the Oaks Hotel development. A new industrial development incentive was introduced in late 2020 has recently been implemented to encourage the creation of new industrial lots and/or industrial development. A townships specific incentive is encouraging the growth of our regional areas with discounts provided to developers within specified areas in and around nominated district centres.
Council will continue to consider financially responsible mechanisms that are available to attract new development that contributes to our Regional economy. I’m extremely confident that continued investment from private enterprise across many different sectors of our economy will underpin jobs and will be a vital component in restoring our growth trends.
There are very positive signs emerging on the employment front based on Queensland Government figures. Our Region has recorded the lowest unemployment across the state for March and April 2021, with the latest figure for April at 4.4%, compared to the April state average figure of 6.1%. Equally pleasing is a fall in our youth unemployment rate that has seen the figure fall from a September 2020 high of 27.2% to the equal second lowest in Queensland at 9.7% in April 2021.
Council will continue to work with all our economic and business organisations to progress plans across our towns, the Toowoomba CBD and the entire Region.
Imminent announcements related to major projects involving the Council of Mayors South East Queensland (COMSEQ) could have untold benefits for our Region and Queensland. The Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid late last week took another step forward when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board voted to send the proposal to a full vote of the IOC in Tokyo in July this year. COMSEQ also awaits a final decision on the SEQ City Deal. A City Deal is a rolling funding agreement between all tiers of government to deliver a pipeline of investment over 15 or 20 years to address population challenges and boost the Covid-19 recovery. The SEQ City Deal, spanning 20 years, more than 3 million residents and 11 councils, will be the most ambitious and far-reaching Deal in Australia. A City Deal has the potential to facilitate new funding agreements that could deliver projects and infrastructure that the individual Council members alone could not achieve, such as fast rail.
In the past financial year to May, Council has received more than $26.3 million in grants, subsidies and contributions from the state and federal governments. While Council is grateful for these contributions, it reinforces how dependent local government is on external funding. Council has framed this Budget at a time when funding from higher levels of government remains difficult to source. Our task, as a local government, is to provide the community's essential services in an economically responsible manner.
I repeat my call for appropriate and equitable funding allocations from the higher levels of government to support Council’s ongoing program of rolling out essential urban infrastructure.
Council and the Darling Downs and South West Queensland Council of Mayors continue to back the Australian Local Government Association’s campaign calling for a fixed 1% share of Commonwealth tax revenue to aid long-term financial planning. Restoring this non-competitive funding stream would improve Council’s targeted Budget planning and offer greater operational efficiency. Local government does not have the resources to shoulder the full cost of providing essential infrastructure to our growing communities in addition to meeting residents’ growing expectations across our other activities. We will continue to advocate for our fair share of funding to achieve our community goals and ambitions.
Council is determined to capitalise on its strong financial position. Our Region boasts unlimited prospects, an enviable lifestyle with leading health and education resources across safe and welcoming communities.
I particularly wish to acknowledge and thank Deputy Mayor and Finance and Business Strategy Committee chair Cr Geoff McDonald, portfolio leader Cr Kerry Shine, Council’s Acting General Manager of Finance and Business Strategy Ann-Marie Johnston and Acting Manager of Service Delivery and Sustainability Rosie Bugg for their concerted efforts during our Budget and Operational Plan preparations. Your assistance is greatly appreciated, along with the work of all staff.
I’m confident that our combined efforts will ensure we remain a destination of choice for families, business investors and tourists and allow future residents to seize opportunities for a positive future.
The Toowoomba Region continues to expand and it’s crucial we plan for this growth with Council committing close to $40 million in capital projects for Environment and Community Services this financial year.
An exciting item listed in the Budget is the refurbishment of the Soldiers' Memorial Hall. This is a project which has been in the pipeline for many years so it’s pleasing to finally see it coming to fruition as it will provide a valuable community space to the public and our service men and women.
Jointly funded with the Federal Government, $3.8 million will go towards the much-needed repair and restoration of the Heritage-listed building. Construction works will see the replacement of the dance hall roof, a new Herries Street entrance, new meeting/function rooms, kitchen and bar upgrades, a new lift for accessibility and reconstruction of the staircase.
Another key project this year will be the replacement of the Rockville Park clubhouse amenities building. We have a proud sporting history and it’s important we have adequate facilities to nurture the future stars to come. For this $1.9 million project we will remove and replace the existing facility with a modern facility which is able to meet the current and future demand of Rockville Park, including the emergence of female AFL within the Region. Our regional pools will also receive timely upgrades this year. After consulting with the community earlier this year, Council made the decision to replace the existing pool in Millmerran. Beginning in late 2021, $2.5 million has been budgeted to deliver a refurbished pool for the community. In addition to this, two other aquatic centres will soon look a little different with both the Oakey and Yarraman facilities set to receive a facelift. In Yarraman we’ll be spending $350,000 on upgrading the ramps and changes rooms while in Oakey $800,000 has been allocated to refurbish the change rooms and kiosk at the pool. Both of these projects are expected to be completed in 2021 and will ensure these facilities comply with the Persons With Disability (PWD) regulations. Council is acutely aware of the need to cater to all members of the community by providing universal access and PWD compliance. As part of an ongoing program, $150,000 has been allocated to upgrade the toilets and parking at the Crows Nest RSL and Millmerran Cultural Centre. In Cambooya, $200,000 will go towards refurbishing the exterior of the Cambooya Hall including painting and replacement of roof sheeting. While undertaking this work we will make sure the historic features of the building are preserved.
The pavilion at the Oakey Showgrounds will also be updated with the Showgrounds Committee upgrading the existing facility. Funding from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority will ensure the new facility meets the needs of the community for many years to come. The Neil Street Bus Station will also be subject to a toilet renewal this financial year. The works will see Council introducing a new access from Bell Street Mall, greater ventilation, more natural light and additional security surveillance to improve community safety at this key location in the Toowoomba CBD. Almost $850,000 will spent on this project which is expected to be completed early 2022. One of most important sources of funding to our residents, the Community Grants program, will again continue in 2021/22 with $756,000 made available across two rounds of funding for the nine programs. Round one of the community grants will open in July with community groups encouraged to apply. The safety of our community continues to be of paramount importance to us with Council putting $245,000 in the Budget for the City Safe program. This will see the installation of CCTV and communications equipment at Laurel Bank Park, the City Golf Club Cycle Way and Queens Park as well as the renewal and replacement of existing equipment. Through the delivery of these projects I’m confident we’re not only providing our residents with an improved style of living, but building on our proud history which brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to our Region every year.
The Toowoomba Region, an area well-known for its parks and gardens is set to enhance its reputation as the Garden City this financial year.
In 2021/22 we’ll complete work on the Queens Park Master Plan with $2.4 million being allocated to significant landscaping improvement works and lighting at Vera Lacaze Park, pathway and lighting connections between the central amenities building to Godsall Street and lighting works from the central amenities to Hume Street. This is the final phase of the $12 million multi-staged Queens Park Master Plan upgrade project which has included the provision of new regional park playground facilities at Margaret Street and Lindsay Street, multiple toilet and building upgrades, installation of new footpaths, landscaping and lighting. Over the past four years significant improvement works at Queens Park have helped transform and enhance the parkland areas and these final project works will now complete the parks transformation and ensure the park remains one of the premier regional facilities for both visitors to the Region, as well as for our local community. It’s important to us that the parks in our regional areas are also well-looked after which is why we’ll be upgrading a number of these facilities including Carla Crescent Park in Westbrook ($250,000), Lions Park in Hodgson Vale ($305,000) and Pioneer Park in Goombungee ($729,000). We want to make sure that our residents have access to high quality facilities no matter what part of the Region they live in. While new parks always create excitement for our residents, we’re focused on maintaining our existing parks which is why we undertake buildings renewal and upgrade programs each year. As part of these programs, work this financial year will include upgrades to the toilets at Peacehaven Park ($283,000). With 575 parks throughout the Region, we understand how important it is to preserve the wide range of locations we have available to the public. We want to make this a fit, healthy and active community which is why we place so much focus on enhancing open spaces for our residents. Another jewel in our crown is no doubt the entry point to the Toowoomba Region, our wonderful escarpment. Last year we opened the Tobruk Memorial Drive lookout and this year we’ve committed a further $2.84 million to continue the Toowoomba Escarpment Parks upgrade project with the construction of three public toilets including Tobruk Memorial Drive replacement, new toilets at JE Duggan Park and Jubilee Park. The works will also include trail upgrades incorporating supporting auxiliary facilities such as shelters, pathways and picnic facilities upgrades. A new program will commence in 2021/22 with $100,000 committed to the streetscape beautification project of our regional town centres, with Crows Nest at the forefront of this initiative. While the parks and gardens are no doubt one of our biggest drawcards for visitors, our library and cultural services simply can’t be overlooked, enriching our quality of life. To maintain and develop a permanent collection of high quality, original artworks for the Region, we’ve allocated $27,000 to acquire artwork in line with Council's Toowoomba Region Art Collection Guideline. In our libraries we’re always looking for new ways to improve service to our customers. Radio Frequency Identification is a key technology used in libraries to enhance the customer experience, and in this budget, we will spend $105,430 on further upgrades. In this financial year we’ve allocated a further $8.79 million to complete the new Highfields library, customer service area and community meeting rooms. This project includes the finalisation of the design and ultimate construction of the facility following the successful delivery of the road and precinct works. This project will be one of the highlights of the upcoming year, with the new building expected to be open to the public mid-2022.
Conservation and pest management activities remain at the forefront of our minds with Council continuing to deliver baiting programs, firebreak maintenance and prescribed burning programs. Our staff attend regional shows and industry events to help increase awareness and ways in which everyone can play a part in controlling invasive pests and weeds. In addition to this, compliance programs, such as the Animal Inspection Program and Food Licensing, will continue as we strive to be a more safe and healthy Region. As part of our Fire Management Access New Program major perimeter firebreaks will be created for the Flagstone Creek Bushland Park ($200,000). Council also continues its ongoing program of fire break improvement upgrades with an allocation of $245,000 to continue upgrade works to the Harvey Street to Amos Road fire management access. The Toowoomba Region is full of natural and hand-crafted wonders and it’s important we manage our Budget responsibly. This is our home and we’re doing everything we can to maintain and improve our quality of life.
Carefully optimistic best describes the 2021/22 Toowoomba Regional Council Budget. Careful as we continue to navigate our way through the health, social and economic challenges of COVID-19 and optimistic that as a Region our diverse economy and supportive community has been the cornerstone for a strong recovery. Council is committed to delivering a Budget that meets its long-term financial sustainability commitments while balancing the needs of a growing Region. Twelve months ago, economic indicators suggested the Australian economy would be struggling, therefore Council included a Pandemic Response Investment package of 64 projects in our Budget to stimulate the local economy. When this package was introduced we wanted to make sure there was work available to keep the industry stimulated and locals in jobs however the industry fared better than we expected which is a terrific result for our community. Rather than compete with the projects currently on the books of local contractors, we’ve adjusted timelines where necessary to ensure there is continued investment within the Toowoomba Region. The great news is that about 90 per cent of all spend so far has been with local suppliers which is the number one goal of the Pandemic Response Investment. We hope to see this figure remain high as we continue with the program of works in 2021/22. In addition to this, we will continue to look at ways we can increase our overall local spend, with Council setting itself a target of 60%. As of 31 May, 51% of Council’s supplier spend was with local supplies, equating to $137 million invested in our local economy. Over the past year we made permanent changes to our procurement policy to ensure more money is kept within the Region and we will continue to look for further opportunities to increase our local spend. We remain committed to the local government principle of sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure and delivery of effective services. Our community’s expectations and our expenses are rising but despite this, Councillors have worked closely with Council’s Executive Leadership Team to deliver a responsible budget. That’s why we have, once again, implemented a 2.5% General Rates increase this financial year, following our long-term financial sustainability model. In addition to this, there will be a 2.5% increase for separate charges and a 2.4% increase for wastewater. Our water pricing also focuses on our long-term financial sustainability and has been through extensive modelling to ensure the Water and Wastewater business continues to head toward full cost recovery. Residents connected to the Toowoomba Bulk Supply will see an increase by 3.4% to their access and consumption charges while non-residential users will see an increase of 4.4%. There will be a 6.1% increase, for both residential and non-residential users, for those having access to the Non-Toowoomba Bulk Supply.
This works out to an overall increase of 2.76% for rates and charges or about $1.76 a week for the average urban residential property. While this is the average increase, there may be some residents with disparities due to the latest Queensland State Government Valuations however 94% of properties will have a General Rate increase of less than 5%. If a resident does believe they have been unfairly disadvantaged, please speak with our Customer Service Centre about your individual set of circumstances. Overall Council’s Budget for the 2021/22 financial year is $551 million, made up of $187 million in capital projects and $364 million operational. As part of the capital projects, $28.6 million has been allocated towards new projects, $66.7 million on upgrades and $91.8 million on renewals. With an asset base of $5.4 Billion, and a budgeted depreciation of $106 million, Council needs to ensure there is a strong emphasis placed on the renewal of its assets. One of our key long-term financial measures is the Asset Sustainability Ratio which is the annual spend on capital renewal projects as a percentage of the depreciation value. Council has set a 70% or greater target while the State Department for Local Government have set a target of greater than 90%. Our Asset Sustainability Ratio is forecast as 88.4% for 2021/22 which is a good result. The continued success of Council’s controlled entities remains a focus which is why we will continue to invest in these three entities; Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise, The Jondaryan Woolshed and The Empire Theatre this financial year. This is a careful yet optimistic Budget which forecasts an operating surplus of $783,000. An Operating Surplus is important as these funds can be drawn upon for capital projects and to provide an ability for Council to respond to uncertainty in the market. Council has maintained its credit rating as Sound with a Neutral Outlook. This rating is a measure of confidence in the process and our financial position and should provide our residents with comfort and confidence.
The 2021/22 Budget provides Council with a chance to refine and update services to ensure we continue to meet the expectations of our residents today, and for many years to come. While the past year has been challenging for a number of reasons, it has also provided opportunities on how we can review the way we work and make changes where necessary. Services and systems which were used in the past may not be the best methods moving forward so we need to adjust and make improvements where we think they are in the best interests of our community. Digital meetings and online services have become the norm for many of us and as such, Council needs to continue investing in these areas to provide our residents and staff with modern technology. One program which will allow us to do this, is our digital radio network. More than $220,000 will be invested this financial year to progress a plan for integration with corporate systems and processes. In addition to this, we have allocated $100,000 towards our two-way radio program. This funding will allow for the implementation of an automated system to ensure that out-of-hours emergencies and lone worker alerts through Council's radio network are received. This is a valuable tool which will give us far greater service throughout the entire Toowoomba Region should we face an emergency. During the 2011 floods we faced a number of challenges and this technology has been implemented to address these black spots. More than $1 million will be spent on upgrading and replacing ICT equipment. At the height of COVID-19 restrictions we saw the impact technology had on communities and this funding will allow Council to replace outdated equipment. Software upgrades will be key for Council this financial year with TechnologyOne ($1.5 million), Pathway ($487,000) and eDocs DM ($252,000) all receiving funding. These three programs are critical for the day-to-day running of Council’s operations. An example of how we’re using the software to improve systems is through our ICT department where they will implement a collaborative and interactive new online Planning Scheme software to allow for faster content drafting, better public documents and end-to-end processing. Communicating Council’s decisions and relaying important information will again be a major focus for us this coming year. Understanding our audience receives messages through a number of different avenues, we need to tailor our messaging to best suit the needs of residents. That is why we will continue to distribute Council’s BOLD magazine to households throughout the Region, as well as making it available on our website, which remains a key source of information for residents. Completing this work will be our social media channels. Our online presence continues to grow, with members of the public able to receive instant notifications and updates from Council on a daily basis. Our early rate payments will continue in 2021/22, with residents eligible for a 10% discount if they pay their rates before 7 September 2021. This discount is additional to the rebate for pensioners which has increased this year to $102.50 while the pensioner rebate for the water access charge remains at $35. At the end of the day, Council is here to serve the community and that’s what we strive to do with our staff all unified in approach to making this a better place to live, work and play.
The Toowoomba Region is one of the largest local employers in the area. We have dedicated staff who remain committed to providing residents with the best service possible. Our Customer Service staff, whether it be in-person, over the phone or online, are here to assist residents with their day-to-day needs. With the adoption of the 2021/22 Budget we have made a commitment to our community that we will continue to serve and invest in our Region.
Council will carry on investing in major projects and the continued renewal of our Region’s assets in 2021/22. These essential projects are the key to ensuring our communities remain resilient to COVID-19 and prosper and thrive well into the future. In the past 18 months, as well as COVID-19, the Toowoomba Region has experienced fires, minor floods and the ongoing impacts of a prolonged drought. Together, these events have placed enormous social, emotional and financial pressure on our communities and will continue to as we recover from the impacts the pandemic has brought upon us.
Council is responsible for looking after more than 6,500 kilometres of sealed and unsealed roads, more than 85 roundabouts and over 700 kilometres of footpaths and cycleways. Every time each and every one of us leaves home, we journey along a local road. That’s why Council has made a strong commitment to road improvements and safety across the Region, investing $67 million in our road and drainage Capital Budget, $15.7 million in fleet and logistics and a continuation of operational spend.
We’ve allocated $3.3 million to the upgrade of Dalby-Nungil Road and $2.2 million to the upgrade of Oakey-Biddeston Road, from the Warrego Highway to Oakey Creek. A further $3.1 million has been allocated to complete Stage 2 and 3 of upgrading Bowenville-Moola Road with funding provided for all three projects through the Australian Government’s Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program. These roads are key freight routes in our Region and this investment will not only create jobs but will strengthen the economic growth of our Region’s key industries as well as those of our neighbours.
Agriculture is the backbone of the Toowoomba Region and Council is focused on strengthening each and every one of our rural communities. These important projects are vital to supporting the economic success of our agricultural sector and will not only enhance productivity for our rural residents but will improve overall road safety in these areas for all road users.
Council has committed $1.3 million to completing the Kingsthorpe-Haden Road culvert near Goombungee with the Australian Government contributing 50 per cent towards the project as part of its Bridge Renewal Program.
This financial year we will complete the repair work on our roads impacted by floods in February 2020, as part of the joint Australian and State Governments Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA). A preliminary budget of $7.7 million has been allocated to continue capital works on the 2020 program. Through the Australian Government’s Black Spot Program, we’ll also undertake safety improvement projects worth $1.7 million including the Yalangur-Lilyvale Road upgrade, near Yalangur.
Council is also helping to improve safety at local schools through the Queensland Government’s School Transport Infrastructure Program (STIP). As part of this work, $1.35 million will go towards completing a new off-street parking facility to service Glenvale State Primary School. We will also complete a $660,000 signalisation upgrade of the intersection of South Street and High Street at Rangeville to address safety concerns for local students and commuters.
A number of other road projects will be undertaken this year, including the commencement of $2.6 million in sealing works on Nukku Road at Crows Nest with funding provided through the Queensland Government’s Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme.
As part of our asset renewal, Council has committed $25 million to rehabilitating and resealing our sealed road network, gravel resheeting and renewing asphalt surfaces across the Toowoomba Region. This is a significant spend, which underlines our commitment to maintaining and improving the road network, especially in regional areas, something I have advocated for every year since being elected to Council. It’s vital that residents in our Region have a reasonable level of access to the road network, regardless where they live.
As part of the revitalisation of Toowoomba’s CBD, $2.5 million has been allocated to complete Stage 1 and commence Stage 2 of the urban renewal project for the Russell Street precinct; an integral part of our city’s heritage and cultural landscape.
As TRC’s Infrastructure Services Committee Chair, I would like to acknowledge Infrastructure Services Portfolio Leader, Cr Melissa Taylor and all my fellow Councillors. I would further like to acknowledge the valued work of the entire organisation, with special thanks to Infrastructure Services Group General Manager Mike Brady and his team.
These are challenging times for everyone and while there is much work to be done, we’re behind our communities. We look forward to delivering this infrastructure, supporting our local businesses and growing our Region.
Our Region is vibrant and dynamic and continues to flourish and grow despite the economic and social challenges of 2020. As Toowoomba further bridges the divide between being a big country town and regional city, it’s vital Council delivers infrastructure that will keep pace with the growth of our Region as it moves towards a new era. Investing in key infrastructure and assets now, means we can plan for future growth and sustain the lifestyle and culture we hold so dear for generations to come.
In 2021/22, Council will continue to invest in parking options for the Region to meet the current and future needs of motorists. In line with the Toowoomba City Centre Parking Strategy, we’ll invest $1.2 million to continue development of new smart parking technology across the Toowoomba CBD parking precinct, enabling Council to better manage parking needs. Smart technology will allow motorists to plan trips more efficiently, which will improve traffic flow and reduce congestion in the CBD. Throughout the CBD, Council will also progress the renewal of assets, investing $250,000 in converting street lighting to LED technology, replacing single head parking meters and the replacement and upgrade of existing carparking machines to ‘pay and display’ machines.
As the Region grows, we have a responsibility to facilitate safer, more reliable and user-friendly public and active transport. Council continues to explore active transport options that help reduce car trips in and around the city centre. Providing an efficient and serviceable public transport network is important for any growing city. That’s why we’ve committed $150,000 to our region wide bus stop renewal program. Council is also on track to meet 100 per cent compliance with disability standards, as per Australian Government legislation, for all of its urban and long-distance bus stops by the end of 2022 at a cost of $250,000.
Footpaths are the foundation of any active transport network and ensuring residents are able to move easily throughout the Region will be an ongoing focus for Council. We’ll invest $600,000 in our footpath renewal program, upgrading footpaths across the Region to current standards to improve amenity and maintain functionality. There is also an additional $250,000 for CBD footpath renewals. This financial year we will deliver new footpaths in Pittsworth on Yandilla Street and Grand Street at a total cost of $175,000. $200,000 has also been committed to seed funding to undertake the design phase of priority footpath projects for Millmerran, Yarraman and Clifton to be delivered as funding becomes available.
Council will continue working towards disability compliance with our Footpath Crossovers Renewal Program throughout the Region, investing $200,000 to renew numerous kerb crossings to comply with disability access requirements across the existing road network.
This financial year we’ll invest $700,000 in upgrading and renewing pedestrian crossing facilities to improve safety and connectivity across our local road network.
Whether for fun, fitness or as a means of active transport, riding a bike is a great way to get around. That’s why Council has committed $400,000 in seed funding with the support of the Queensland Government in planning for a future staged extension of the Region’s Principal Cycle Network. As a priority project for Council, we’ve also committed $300,00 to upgrade the Alderley Street Cycleway and Pedestrian Bridge at West Creek in Toowoomba with construction expected to commence later this year.
While major infrastructure projects are critical for our Region, I’m pleased to see a concerted effort in this Budget towards upgrading our networks in our regional areas. This is something our Infrastructure Committee Chair Councillor Carol Taylor has advocated for over many years and I’m happy to join her on this journey. In this Budget we’ve allocated $250,000 to undertaking low cost seals upgrades as well as for planning future projects to seal our rural roads. This is in addition to $470,000 to install new kerb and channel on John Street at Crows Nest, as part of Council’s commitment to improving roads in regional communities.
I would like to acknowledge Cr Carol Taylor and all my fellow Councillors with special thanks to Infrastructure Services Group General Manager Mike Brady and his team.
Residents choose to live in the Toowoomba Region for its unparalleled lifestyle. It’s vital Council meets the needs of the community and provides residents with essential services and facilities so ours remains a liveable, modern and attractive Region for visitors and residents alike.
In this Budget we’ve carefully balanced the needs of all the areas throughout the Toowoomba Region, as we strive to make it an even better place for our community.
Council is continuing with a multi-year project, Toowoomba Region Futures, to create a shared vision for how our Region will develop in the next 30 years. We live in a unique part of Australia with our temperate climate and we will work with residents to protect our treasured landscapes that shape our identity and the attractive lifestyle features that we know our community values highly. The Toowoomba Region has many enviable lifestyle attributes, from our parks and open spaces, the special character of our rich heritage across Toowoomba city and our regional towns and our established infrastructure, that attracts people to live, work, play and study here. We have a responsibility to listen to residents’ views and incorporate feedback into how we want our Region to develop while retaining our most valuable and appealing natural features.
Council’s Strategic Planning and Economic Development branch will refresh and advance the vision and planning framework through the Toowoomba Region Futures program.
Council is working on three major strategic projects, including establishing a Regional Growth Plan, preparing the new Planning Scheme and a major review of the TRIP. Strategic work started in 2020 to provide a clear set of planning principles and planning policy to inform how development will be managed through the new Planning Scheme. This work will be completed in December 2021.
Our community will have the chance to review the draft Growth Plan in September 2021. This plan will be finalised in October following the consideration of feedback. The first part of the new Planning Scheme will be open for the community to review in February/March 2022 with the release of the draft strategic framework. The strategic framework describes the type of Region we wish to see evolve over the next 20 years and how new development will contribute to achieving our vision for the future.
I encourage all interested residents and industry stakeholders to take advantage of the chance to review and comment on these important foundation documents in the coming year. It is important that we hear and review our community’s ideas about how our Region will be developed. These plans will update and reset our strategic direction to ensure it continues to meet community needs and expectations over the next 20 years and aligns with State planning land use and economic development policy.
Our Region’s population is expected to increase by an additional 55,000 people over the next 25 years.
Our planning strategies will provide clear planning policies and direction for residents and the development industry. Key elements of the Toowoomba Region Futures project include:
Council will continue to develop other key strategic projects that influence and contribute to our liveability. These include:
Design specialists help refine plans
Council is continuing to use its design specialists across the organisation and within the Planning and Development Group to promote excellence in architecture and urban design, heritage conservation and landscape architecture with both internal and external stakeholders. Free heritage advice services are available to offer insight and direction on renovations, conservation or any heritage issues for residents and business owners from the pre-concept stage and through the life of the project. On-site inspections can be arranged to discuss specific project details. Residents’ pride in their home improvement projects has seen demand for the heritage advisory service grow. The Regional Architecture and Heritage Office has focused on providing early consultation, prior to lodgement of a development application, to enable residents to make more informed responses to Planning Scheme requirements. This has supported a more fluid application process. The regional Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC) was re-formed in 2021 and has held several meetings this year. This valuable committee will meet at least four times per year to offer advice and information to Council in relation to heritage issues.
The Regional Architecture and Heritage Services branch (RAHB) has been very involved in the work being completed as part of the Planning Scheme review. The RAHB is project managing development of a Guideline for Warm Temperate Climate Design. This project is set to be completed in the next financial year. Phase One of the project saw a collaboration with the University of Southern Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology on review of, and definition of, our Region’s temperate climate.
The Building Certification team, Total Range Certification, continues to provide a quality certification service for people and businesses constructing commercial buildings and dwellings.
The Development Services Branch continues to look for and implement opportunities to streamline development assessment timeframes. This financial year the Branch will finalise implementation of the review of its pre-lodgement services. The Branch will also finalise its major projects protocol and will then consult with the industry prior to its implementation.
We’re continuing with our extensive work under the Toowoomba Region Futures banner to build a community vision for our Region’s growth and development over the next 30 years.
Council in the coming year will draft and deliver an updated Local Government Infrastructure Plan (LGIP) that will be renamed the Toowoomba Region Infrastructure Plan (TRIP). This recognises its important role in ensuring our Region remains an attractive lifestyle destination and that the infrastructure required to service growth is both affordable and facilitates economic development.
The TRIP will include a 10-15-year plan to service our growing communities with essential infrastructure. This means:
The TRIP is part of the Planning Scheme that incorporates development infrastructure to cater for our growing community in a way that is sustainable and affordable.
Planning for infrastructure is a key part of the land use planning system across Queensland as it identifies the infrastructure required to service growth in an efficient and orderly manner. This offers certainty to communities on the future of our Region. We know our Region will continue to grow and our planning is a sensible and vital step that enables Council to understand the cost of servicing growth. It identifies our investment in the Region’s future built form. Essentially, it’s the work we do behind the scenes to make sure our communities function efficiently.
For the development industry, it provides transparency around Council’s provision of trunk infrastructure and allows Council to impose conditions relating to necessary trunk infrastructure on development approvals. Charges collected for infrastructure will help cover the cost of servicing new growth areas. This is an equitable way of planning and charging for new infrastructure that services our growth areas. The TRIP is the critical ingredient for responsibly delivering urban development in accordance with the Toowoomba Region Planning Scheme. Without properly coordinated infrastructure roll-out we cannot have ongoing urban development.
Council will continue to develop other key economic development projects that influence and contribute to our liveability. These include:
12 months from now, what will we, the ratepayers of Toowoomba Region, have to show for the $38.5 million spent on water and $16.3 million on wastewater?
Mt Kynoch Water Treatment Plant is being upgraded because it’s 46 years old ($4.6 million); the 28km pipeline that moves water from Perseverance Dam to Mt Kynoch to be treated is being replaced ($6.5 million) so we don’t lose water through leakage and breaks; Highfields trunk water infrastructure around Cawdor/Kratzke, Highfields and Borghardt roads is being installed ($4.8 million) because the population there has grown and the sewer for Gowrie Creek is being also being upgraded ($3.2 million).
We’re still carting water in and wastewater out of Clifton. But the Great Artesian Basin bore there continues to look positive so $800,000 will be put into that site and $1.58 million is going toward the Clifton Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Those are the big-ticket items.
To cater for the growing community of Meringandan West, a new trunk water main will be installed along Highfields Road and Goombungee Meringandan Road at a cost of $560,000.
We’ve committed more than $700,000 to undertaking vital renewal works on the Cressbrook Dam Pump and another $700,000 in the Crows Nest wastewater treatment plant upgrade.
This year, Council will allocate more than $2.3 million to progress its Smart Water Meter Proof of Concept before considering a full roll out across the Region.
The population connected to Toowoomba’s bulk water supply is projected to grow by 80,000 to 270,000 by 2050. We need to plan as well as use water – our most precious resource – more efficiently. The State and Federal governments are crucial to unlocking our potential.
We more than carry our weight in our contribution to Queensland’s regional domestic product and Australia’s GDP, so I’m looking forward to them sharing our vision for the future of the Darling Downs and seeing what we can so clearly see.
Waste management is one of Council’s core essential services, playing a huge role in our community, public health and environmental outcomes. We all generate waste and as our population continues to grow so does the amount of waste our Region produces, increasing the costs of operating landfills and presenting more challenges in identifying long term, sustainable waste solutions to minimise negative impacts on our environment. As we move towards a bigger and better Toowoomba Region, we need to find new opportunities for innovative ways to use our resources, reduce landfill and optimise service levels for our community members. It’s crucial we find the right balance between delivering new, essential waste infrastructure while managing the costs of ongoing maintenance and replacement of existing assets.
In this Budget Council has placed a significant focus on waste infrastructure, investing $6.2 million in waste capital projects.
We’ll invest $3.5 million in upgrading the Yarraman Waste Management Facility to a Tier 4 facility. Although much smaller, the new Yarraman facility will be similar to the Greater Toowoomba Waste Management Facility (GTWMF). The project will greatly enhance the operations and better serve the Yarraman community while providing new opportunities to maximise diversion from landfill.
This financial year, we’ll also continue to progress work on delivering Council’s Waste Management Strategy, investing $1.5 million in Stage 2 of the Toowoomba Waste Management Centre (TWMC) vertical expansion. The landfill cell at this facility will soon reach capacity and a new cell is required to continue the acceptance of waste at the site. We’ve committed funding to undertake detailed design work and to purchase liner materials with the commissioning of the cell expected in 2022/23.
This financial year, Council will complete more works on the landfill gas utilisation project at TWMC to generate power for the Wetalla Wastewater Treatment Plant. This is a progressive and exciting project which will use landfill gas to generate energy to offset about 60 per cent of the power consumption at Wetalla, as well as generate electricity to power the state’s electricity grid. Landfills are considerable emitters of greenhouse gas and this type of re-use project will help to significantly reduce the emissions and provide a return to Council by reducing costs associated with operating Wetalla. The project will deliver income through royalty payments to Council from the sale of electricity and carbon abatement programs. We estimate the site will produce around 600mᵌ of gas per hour, which is sufficient to run a 1MW generator.
Council is also planning to upgrade both the Greenmount and Millmerran Waste Management Facilities in the near future and this financial year has allocated $280,000 to continue design works for these projects.
$30,000 has also been committed to complete design works for the future installation of a weighbridge at Clifton Waste Management Facility to comply with Queensland Government regulations associated with the State’s waste levy.