Councillor profiles – Mayor Simon Murray Armidale Regional Council
The Armidale Regional Council is located on the Northern Tablelands in northern New South Wales (NSW).
Our eastern boundary is dominated by gorge country with waterfalls and pristine world heritage national parks.
With altitudes 1000m above sea level, our climate could best be described as cool, with light snow falls during winter and very pleasant summers.
We are in a relatively safe rainfall zone, with predominantly summer dominant rainfall, but moderate rainfall occurs every month.
Our rainfall is highly variable though with the community of Ebor on our eastern boundary receiving 1650 mm average annual rainfall, whereas Tingha 140 km to the west only receives 560 mm.
This area produces some of the best agricultural produce in Australia.
We have a great horticulture industry with 30ha of tomato production under glass, flower farms, properties producing strawberry runners meeting over 30 percent of Australia’s demand, some of the best prime lambs, some of the leading cattle studs and recently there has been a large development in Wagyu cattle production.
Combine this with great craft beer, really good wines, trout and yabbie production and truffles, our region is a foodie’s delight.
Like the Demtel add, there is more.
Armidale, the major city in our region, is home to the University of New England, claimed to be the first Australian university established outside a state capital city.
We also have a number of private boarding schools and TAFE NSW recently launched TAFE Digital in Armidale, as we were one of the first cities to get fast broadband NBN to the premises.
I am in my second year of Mayor of Armidale Regional Council which is the result of the merger in 2016 of Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra Shire Councils.
This was a forced merger which created a lot of unrest and animosity within the residents of the old Guyra Shire Council, as merging a community of 4,500 with one of 25,000 was seen as a take over, rather than a mutual merger.
We face many short term challenges, the major ones being harmonising rates and getting a common enterprise agreement between the two previous council areas.
As a council, we must ensure the residents across the region are heard and respected.
The services we provide must be equivalent to, if not better than were provided in the previous two councils.
We are making progress on many fronts and getting many positive comments on improved services.
Due to the increased capacity of the new Council, we are managing to get significant projects planned and funded.
Our local NSW member recently announced funding for a pipeline from the Armidale water supply dam to Guyra that will provide water security for the town of Guyra, but also provide water for more intensive horticulture.
The result of this announcement was the company with the 30ha of tomato glasshouses is set to expand their operation with a further 10ha under glass.
We have had a number of enquiries to develop other horticultural products around Guyra.
While the role of Mayor can be rewarding, there are times when it does become frustrating.
The keyboard warriors on social media are relentless in their not-so-positive comments regarding just about every issue, even though some are not from this region.
My escape is to hop in my side-by-side with six dogs and go and work cattle on our cattle property.
I find it really rewarding to watch dogs educate and manage cattle and often it is the mundane work that is the most peaceful.
At the end of our long work days, my wife and I enjoy sitting on the back patio having a beer together and taking in our scenic country view.