Swans and Budgets

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Three times in the last week or so I’ve seen a pair of swans back at the wetland that I thought had been killed by the latest coal loader. It’s been lovely to see the water back in the pond that has supported bird life for at least thirty years, according to one writer to the Herald earlier in the year.

I wrote in an earlier post that several experts had asserted in January that it was lack of rain that had made the pond dry up but according to the Bureau of meteorology there have been several drier years in the last decade and the water level had never seemed to fall.

Anyway, whether it’s better weather or unseen hands putting water in the pond, it’s lovely to see the birds back again.

I try to look at the agenda for each Tuesday’s council meeting to see when the briefing about Laman Street and Civic Park will be given to the elected councillors. So far I’ve seen nothing. It will certainly be worthwhile to go to that meeting to see what comes of the claim that every option about the fig trees was canvassed at the charette.

What’s on tonight  1 6 2010 is a discussion about applicants for council’s tree maintenance work for the next 12 months. The budget for this work is almost $430 000.

‘Council requires the services of tree contractors, principally to carry out large-scale works and often requiring the use of equipment which Council does not own.

The services are at times also required to supplement Council’s in-house tree maintenance crews to meet demands and manage risks. Council currently has in place contracts with four contractors and these agreements are due to expire on 30 June 2010.

The service involves tree maintenance work on public land and footways throughout the Newcastle local government area. Tree maintenance work includes tree pruning and removal, stump and root grinding, tree root investigation and installing root barriers.’

I believe council upskilled all its tree maintenance staff by sending them to study arboriculture, a move I applaud. It seems a shame that we apparently don’t have the staff to do this sort of work in-house.

There’s no doubt a way one can find out the work that’s planned – it probably just requires a million Freedom Of Information requests and lots of fighting – but it fills one with confidence that what’s planned is large in scale. Not.

It seems a lot of money when it’s compared to the 2008-2009 budget. Just as I know next to nothing about arboriculture (just ask a municipal arborist), I know as little as it’s possible to know about accounting. [I read about a survey of judges once: they were asked to choose the hardest to understand of the expert witnesses they had to listen to – they chose accountants.] 

Here’s a page from the 2008-2009 budget that details the division of costs with regard to looking after council’s natural assets:

Double-click on the image and it will enlarge so it can be read. You can download the whole 185 page document here  if you don’t have a life if you’re interested. Some of the figures are large but none compares with the projected cost for this year.

I’m looking forward to the street tree masterplan which I don’t believe is finished yet, in spite of the costs detailed on this page.

There are lots of interesting things on the agenda for tonight – the so-called ‘Fix our city’ campaign (fantastic name: it sounds so benign; if only it were), the district skate park and  Empire Park issue, the two code of conduct reviews against Councillors Osborne and Tate and so on.

There is an eloquent  notice of motion put forward that council conduct an audit of all memorials in the local government area and create a Memorials Working Group. It says:

‘Memorials in Newcastle are often overlooked as part of the fabric that makes up the cultural history of the city. They are a sensitive issue and they need to be treated with respect and dignity.

Council officers have done an exemplary job and Council once had  a Memorials Committee. With the advent of the new structure it is timely that consideration is given to the creation of a Memorials Working Party and that group is equipped with information about how the memorials are doing, where they all are, and what they represent.

This working party can then make recommendations and reports to the Community and Culture Advisory Committee as to strategies and priorities for maintaining and preserving Newcastle’s valued memorials.’

Hope to see you there if I get home from work at a reasonable hour and the children give me permission to attend…    Home 

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One Response to “Swans and Budgets”

  1. Ali Says:

    Thanks again for your diligent update. Sounds like Newcastle City Council has a full Agenda tonight, I hope the petty infighting doesnt distract Councillors from giving these Budget & proposals proper consideration. It does seem that NCC officers could be preparing the structure to ease implementation of THEIR vision. I wonder how one gets on a memorial committee or perhaps the members have already been canvassed & selected? My experience with Council Committees is that they often only have 2 token community reps. BTW Trees make great memorials!

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