Councillor profiles - Greg Howard Mayor Dorset Shire Council
Dorset Municipality covers the north eastern corner of Tasmania with an area of 3200 square km and around 7000 residents.
Our main industries are agriculture, forestry and more recently tourism.
We have three world renowned visitor attractions in Dorset, Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Barnbougle Dunes Golf courses and Council owned Blue Derby mountain trails.
Finding a new way
In the early 2000’s Dorset lost the majority of its manufacturing industries, a milk factory, vegetable processing factory, two large sawmills plus a couple of hundred forestry jobs.
Over the last 4-5 years the region has made a significant recovery due to developing tourism, dairy expansion and some recovery in the forest industry.
Dorset Council is relatively unique in that we have stepped outside the traditional modus operandi of councils.
First, we bought an aged care facility listed for closure, circumventing a loss of 50 jobs and 30 bed licences.
Secondly, we pre-purchased 1250 megalitres of water at a cost of $1.75 million from a proposed irrigation scheme to ensure the $60 million project went ahead.
We scrapped lease and licence fees for all sporting clubs and not for profit organisations using Council facilities.
We have also almost ceased the use of consultants to back officer’s decisions, cut administration staff and boosted outdoor staff.
These initiatives along with changes in culture and a significant lift in productivity resulted in moving from a deficit of $0.5 million in 2012 to four consecutive surpluses from 2014-2018 of between $1.5 - $2 million.
We have also grown our capital expenditure budget over the same period from $5.5 million to a proposed $14.3 million in 2018/19.
Costs and rewards
The main reason I got involved in 2014 was to help my long term friend and then Mayor Barry Jarvis, who was battling with anti-change councillors. But unfortunately Barry passed away from a heart attack only nine months into his current term and I was elected mayor at a subsequent byelection.
Apart from my role as mayor I own a vegetable and beef farm plus I operate a company which provides training and health and safety services to the forestry, agricultural, mining and civil construction industries.
In the past I have had also had investments in the tourism and hospitality industry.
It has to be said that being mayor has meant that my other businesses have suffered badly from a lack of attention but my business experience in our three major industries has proved invaluable.
Out of work my family comes first; I am an avid Aussie Rules and horse racing fan and a keen supporter of cricket.
Goals, challenges, achievements
Council’s main goals are efficient service delivery, maintenance and improvement of infrastructure and sustainability.
With elections this year it would be disappointing if the hard work of the last four years was undone by anti-progress or single issue candidates.
The main challenge for Council is funding our extensive road and bridge network without impacting too heavily on residents in terms of rate rises.
While Council still owns a thousand megalitres of our original water purchase we aim to ensure the water is distributed to the farming community where it is most needed.
Similarly, our investment in aged care is temporary and we have signed a deal with another aged care provider to purchase our facility while providing loans to build an adjoining 25 to 30 bed facility to ensure scale and long term sustainability.
Council’s main future infrastructure aim is to upgrade the road between Scottsdale and Launceston to b-double standard.
This is a state road, but an upgrade is vital for the future of Dorset and Council has already committed funds towards the improvements.
I would rate the saving of aged care, the development of the irrigation scheme and the removal of lease fees for sporting clubs etc. as my most satisfying achievements.
These initiatives have not only helped to guarantee the financial sustainability of Dorset but have made a significant contribution to the amenity of the region.
Although I have worked away I have always lived in the municipality and at times have been frustrated at the inactions of some previous councils.
To be able to implement some of the changes we have made in the past four years has been rewarding to say the least with further change in the wind.
The worst part is people who refuse to accept reality and continue to oppose the direction of Council, despite the considerable benefits they have enjoyed, just because they disagree with a single decision Council are the worst in the world.
It is also disappointing how these people use social media to unfairly target individual councillors while having no regard for the truth.
My future number one priority is the road upgrade to Launceston but following that I would like to see a new channel into the port at Bridport.
Accompanying the channel would be a new marina constructed inside the river to cater for the thousands of pleasure craft who currently don’t come to Northern Tasmania because of a lack of berthing facilities.