Maintaining our enviable liveability and providing value-for-money services to our residents, visitors and businesses remained a key consideration for Council during the 2016-17 financial year.
Continued growth in our region presented exciting opportunities and challenges, with Council investing in projects to realise our vision as a vibrant, inclusive, environmentally rich and prosperous region that embraces the future while respecting the past.
As an organisation, we have invested significantly in achieving the goals articulated in our 2014-19 Corporate Plan and I am proud of our ‘score card’ this financial year. Adapting our strategic direction to meet the changing and diverse needs of our residents remained a key priority, with Council adopting two new Corporate Goals – ‘Culture’ and ‘Innovation & Technology’ during this financial year. Inclusion of these goals affirms our commitment towards prioritising a positive culture and actively looking for creative and innovative solutions to improve service delivery outcomes for our community. Reporting of these goals will commence this coming financial year, 2017-18.
Over the past 12 months, Toowoomba Regional Council has employed more than 1,790 staff in over 200 separate roles. As one of the largest employers in the region, Council is committed to delivering a broad range of training and professional development opportunities for our workforce. Our commitment was acknowledged this year, with Council winning the Large Employer of the Year in the Queensland regional training awards for the Darling Downs region. Extension of our Parental Leave Policy to provide eligible female employees’ 14 weeks paid maternity leave and the introduction of a Transition to Retirement framework were further endorsements of our commitment to building a skilled and diverse workforce that reflects the community we serve.
Council continued to provide outstanding customer service, with 220,000 telephone calls and service centre enquiries responded to this year. Our residents continue to express high levels of satisfaction with the service received from Customer Service Officers, with more than 90% of queries resolved during the first interaction. Ensuring customers are provided with a professional and seamless customer experience is a continuing focus for Council, with promotion of a ‘Community First’ culture across the organisation.
A well-planned and maintained infrastructure system is critical for a successful economy. This year, Council invested significantly in link roads to the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, streetscape works to North Ruthven Street and the City Hall Auditorium and new Annex. We also completed surveys and designs for 66 projects totalling $27.4 million for the 2016-17 Capital Works Program, including planning and preliminary design of the new Charlton Principal Depot.
Receipt of prestigious urban planning awards for the Kwong San Walk project and the Clifton Township Open Space Concept Master Plan were affirmation of our consultative approach to urban design and the work we are doing to transform the Toowoomba CBD and our regional communities. Planning for a growing region is a great responsibility and, whilst it is important to ensure consistent and cohesive infrastructure planning, it’s essential that community collaboration is included to realise the shared vision of our region.
Toowoomba Regional Council adopted its Local Government Infrastructure Plan (LGIP) in May 2017. Changes to state government legislation in 2014 enabled Council to adopt the LGIP, which replaces the previous Priority Infrastructure Plan (PIP) in the planning scheme. The LGIP identifies trunk infrastructure (water, sewerage, stormwater, transport, parks and community facilities) that is required to service urban development at the desired standard for our future communities. More specifically, the information in the plan covers the type, cost, size and expected timing of infrastructure and will guide Council decisions about development and associated infrastructure requirements.
The Greater Toowoomba Waste Management Facility was recognised as one of the most progressive in the country, with Council winning the Innovation Award at the 2017 Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Innovation and Excellence Awards in Sydney. The $20 million facility opened in December 2015 and has revolutionised the way we approach waste services across the region, reducing the number of loads to landfill by 72 percent, during its first 12 months of operation. With a growing population comes an increased waste generation and landfill challenges. Council responded to those challenges this year, with the adoption of The Toowoomba Region Waste Management Strategy. Our community is embracing landfill diversion and this strategy is a blueprint for how we will move from a waste disposal to a resource recovery mindset.
Remaining at the forefront of technological advances was a high priority for Council, with our Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) team completing 41 projects this financial year. With the support of our ICT staff we are delivering innovative, responsive, high quality and consistent technologies that will meet organisational and community expectations.
Our significant achievements would not be possible without the ongoing commitment of a dedicated team. I would like to thank our Mayor and Councillors for their leadership and vision this year. I would also like to acknowledge the support of all our employees and my Executive Management Team including Kevin Flanagan, who retired from his position as Water and Waste Services General Manager at the end of this financial year following a 40 year career in local government.
We live in a wonderful region and I am truly proud of Council’s role in delivering the community outcomes articulated in our 2016/17 Annual Report.
Chief Executive Officer