By Tracey Matthies

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has captured a snapshot of its operations throughout the 2019-20 financial year in its annual report, now on display for public comment.
Approved in principle at last week’s council meeting, the 124-page document is a report card of the municipality’s achievements against the Annual Plan and forms the backbone of reporting to the Local Government Minister.
Described by officers in a report to administrators as “a key transparency and community information measure”, the report summarises council’s operations for the year.
Administrator chair Julie Eisenbise wrote in the report the three administrators had done a lot of work with council staff and the community “to build relationships and trust, particularly with those who were sceptical given the local politics prior to our arrival”.
“We have met with close to a thousand people, which is all the more notable when you consider the fact that [the] COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted people’s ability to get together,” Ms Eisenbise said.
“We understand that only by connecting with the community we serve can we make the best decisions needed for the municipality. This is something that we have been passionate about over the last 12 months and are committed to for our term in South Gippsland.”
She said the appointment of Kerryn Ellis as chief executive officer was one of the most significant decisions of the reporting period.
Ms Eisenbise also highlighted the review of the suite of good governance policies, introduction of a Good Governance Framework and, more recently, working on implementing changes required by the new Local Government Act 2020.
“From our early discussions it has been clear that our first areas of focus will be the new governance rules, training for candidates and councillor inductions,” she said.
“While the training for candidates and councillor induction will not take place until 2021, we have started planning for what this will look like and how we can provide the best support to incoming candidates and councillors at the end of our term.”
Ms Eisenbise praised the adaptability of council staff during the pandemic and welcomed the Community Satisfaction Survey results.
“We knew it would not be an easy task to rebuild trust in local government given the circumstances prior to our arrival, but it is heartening to know that we are headed in the right direction.”
Ms Ellis also highlighted the importance of council staff in her message in the report.
“Thankfully, I have inherited a committed and passionate team of employees. The collective desire of the South Gippsland Shire Council staff to serve their local community is exceptional,” Ms Ellis said, adding she was keen to lead the organisation towards a brighter future.
“Over the next 12 to 18 months I will be putting my energy into re-emphasising that you – the members of our community – are and should always be the focus of our work,” she said.
“To best understand the work that you want us to do we need to get better at engaging with the community. By that I mean both those who are already in regular contact with council, and also the 29,000 people we serve who are quietly going about their lives not really engaging with us unless we do something that annoys them!
The more people we hear from, the better our services will reflect the needs and desires of our communities.”
The operations report will go back to council for final adoption at the October council meeting.

REPORT CARD

South Gippsland Shire Council report card against council plan objectives:

Objective one: Strengthen economic growth and prosperity.
• Council plan initiatives – three targets achieved; one target significantly achieved.
• 100 per cent of council plan performance indicators achieved.
• 28 agenda items for council decision.
• 181 planning applications decided within 60-day timeframe.
• 71 per cent of planning applications decided within timeframe.

Objective two: Build strong partnerships, strengthen arts and culture, and deliver equitable outcomes.
• Council plan initiatives – two targets achieved.
• 70-plus community groups funded through council’s community grants program, 87 applications received.
• 100 per cent of council plan performance indicators achieved.
• Eight agenda items for council decision.
• 84 per cent applications approved by state and federal government funding.

Objective three: Improve South Gippsland’s built assets and value our natural environment.
• $16m capital works program; $11.2m capital works infrastructure; $2.5m plant and equipment expenditure; and $2.3m property expenditure.
• Council plan initiatives – three targets achieved; four targets significantly achieved.
• 100 per cent council plan performance indicators achieved.
• 50 agenda items for council decision.
• 568,070 square metres of local roads resealed; 35,030 square metres of sealed local roads reconstructed.

Objective four: Enhance organisation development and implement governance best practice.
• $71m annual budgeted income, $39.6m budgeted capital works expenditure, and $9.6m budgeted grant funding for 2020/21.
• Council plan initiatives – two targets achieved; two targets significantly achieved.
• 100 per cent council plan performance indicators.
• 50 agenda items for council decision.
• 175 total agenda items, 38 procedural agenda items for adoption.