Shellharbour City Council has been named the most progressive in New South Wales.
The council received the A R Bluett Memorial Award at the Local Government NSW annual conference last week, which recognises “excellent results in delivering progress and value to the community”.
The prize, which has been awarded every year since 1945, goes to the council judged to be the “most progressive in NSW in the past 12 months”, and acknowledges commitment to strategic planning, financial sustainability, innovation, continuous improvement and community engagement.
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said the council’s “courageous leadership” is “a shining example of how commitment, teamwork, innovation, and integrity can transform a city”.
“To win this award in our 160th anniversary year of becoming a local government area is something very special. The change this council has undergone during that time is incredible,” she said.
She noted the many challenges the council has faced over the years. It was dismissed in 2008 and consequently was placed under administration for years, and in 2015 it was set to merge with Wollongong. The council took legal action and the NSW government eventually axed the plans.
“We fought that merger with everything we had, and so did our community,” Saliba said.
“This was a terribly difficult time for staff, councillors and residents. Yet our community rallied. They believed in this city and its unique identity. They stood with council and fought for Shellharbour.”
Saliba said the council’s success in overcoming its challenges has been inspiring, and it has since worked to improve in much-needed areas such as infrastructure.
“Our council is now delivering infrastructure development that promotes sustainable and planned growth, while delivering many programs to protect and enhance our natural environment,” she said.
Shellharbour City Council general manager Carey McIntyre added that in 2018/19, the council successfully delivered $19m worth of new projects, $18m worth of renewal projects, and has increased its capital renewal spend by an average of 14% over the past five years.
“The achievements of the last year are a culmination of the transformation of both our council and the city we serve. A reform program touching every part of the organisation has driven the changes inside our walls. Our new values guide how we work and the observable shift in our culture flows out to our community,” he said.
“While winning the A R Bluett Award reaffirms we are solidly on the right path, we cannot and will not become complacent. Council is committed to powering into the future.”