Over the past 12 months, Council has continued to deliver projects that grow our economy and provide value to our residents, visitors and businesses.
During the 2017-18 financial year, Council invested significantly in achieving the goals articulated in our 2014-19 Corporate Plan, including our two new goals Culture and Innovation and Technology.
I am proud of what we have achieved in relation to our scorecard and I am confident that Council has invested in projects and initiatives that realise our vision as a vibrant, inclusive, environmentally rich and prosperous region.
At Council, we understand that our people are our greatest asset and, with a team of empowered, skilled workers we can continue to provide exceptional service to our community.
Council won the Large Employer of the Year (for training) for the South West Queensland region in the Queensland Training Awards.
This year, our commitment to delivering a broad range of training and professional development opportunities for our workforce was recognised. Large-scale Organisational Development programs were also delivered including Women in Leadership, Mental Health First Aid, Generator Program and Unconscious Bias Training.
Ninety-seven percent of office staff voted in favour of a new Enterprise Bargaining (EB) agreement, reflecting a positive relationship between Council and staff. At the end of June the EB agreement for field-based staff was progressing well with likely outcome expected early in the next financial year.
Our Customer Service Branch continued to exemplify Council’s ‘Community First’ culture, responding to 200,000 telephone calls and service centre enquiries this year. Our residents continued to express high levels of satisfaction with the service received from staff. More than 92% of queries were resolved during the first interaction. This year Customer Service noticed a significant migration to digital channels including enquiries via social media, smartphone apps, websites and email.
Our liveability is one of our richest traditions and one Council wants to maintain. This year we delivered a $468 million budget including operational (service delivery) expenditure of $306 million and a capital (infrastructure) program of $162 million.
Council invested $143 million in local roads, footpaths and cycleways to reduce travel times, assist connectivity to the Second Range Crossing, improve road safety and enhance the reliability of our existing infrastructure assets. Key projects included upgrades to Boundary, Mort and Griffiths streets, the City Golf Club Cycleway and the first stage of the Wyreema-Cambooya Road rehabilitation.
Staff across multiple branches of Council achieved milestones with regional projects including the Charlton Principal Depot, Empire Theatre Refurbishment, Queens Park Masterplan and Highfields Sports Precinct.
Planning and Development Services focused on aligning plans and policies with new State planning legislation this year. The Planning Act 2016 introduced a number of changes to development application assessments and plan sealing processes, including reductions to assessment timeframes.
A clean, sustainable water supply is vital for our health and one of the most important issues facing this region. This year Council successfully delivered safe drinking water in compliance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and invested in construction and commissioning of trunk water mains on Hursley Road / Toowoomba-Cecil Plains Road and Nass and Wirth Roads.
Toowoomba Regional Council was judged as having the best-tasting drinking water in Australia at the Best Tap Water in Australia competition. As a result of winning the national title last year, the Toowoomba Region will host the National Taste Test competition in late 2018.
New waste management facilities were also constructed and opened to the public at Cecil Plains, Cooyar and Evergreen. These upgraded facilities provided greater opportunity for recycling and reuse.
Community safety ranks as one of Council’s top priorities and this year Council invested significantly in upgrading the Toowoomba City Safe Network from analogue to digital. With many cameras operating across Toowoomba’s CBD, the network is one aspect of ensuring all residents enjoy a safe and enjoyable social outing in the city.
The Parks and Recreation Services Branch continued to provide high-quality recreational facilities including parks, sporting fields and public areas this year.
Milne Bay Aquatic Centre received national recognition for their commitment to water safety, accepting the Excellence in Aquatic Safety – Public Messaging and Education award at the National Aquatic Industry Safety Awards. Extreme summer heat resulted in high attendance numbers across all aquatic and fitness centres, with 391,992 people visiting Council pools this year.
At a time when funding from higher levels of government is increasingly difficult to obtain, we have improved efficiencies and developed ways to deliver ongoing value for our residents. Through a rigorous budget process we achieved an average 3.41% rates and charges increase, while maintaining current service delivery and funding a range of important new services and initiatives.
Our financial position is sound and we delivered the right balance between opportunity and stability, investment and affordability and risk and responsibility.
The first Toowoomba Regional Council Community Survey provided us with a definitive measure of how we are tracking against community expectation. This along with the detail of what our community judges to be important will be used to guide our future planning.
A satisfaction of 7.0/10 in urban areas and 6.4 in rural areas was achieved in the Community Survey, resulting in an overall satisfaction score of 6.6.
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.
The Toowoomba region is a wonderful place to live and I am proud of Council’s role in delivering the community outcomes articulated in our 2017-18 Annual Report.
Chief Executive Officer, Toowoomba Regional Council