Councillor profiles - Ben Shields Mayor Dubbo Regional Council
Lifestyle options to suit everyone
Situated in the Great Western Plains region of New South Wales the Dubbo Regional Council area is an economic and agricultural hub for the state.
The region has the two distinct centres of Dubbo and Wellington and is surrounded by the historic rural villages of Brocklehurst, Ballimore, Wongarbon, Elong Elong, Toongi, Eumungerie, Sturt Town and Mumbil.
Dubbo Regional Council is the result of a merger of the former Dubbo City Council and Wellington Councils. The new merged entity and larger Local Government Area (LGA) has many great attributes.
As someone who was born and bred in Dubbo I can say first-hand Dubbo is a fantastic place to live and I am enormously proud of our City.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is an absolute favourite for all of Dubbo.
The villages around the LGA are really important. There are so many different lifestyle options in the LGA from inner city living, large residential blocks and open farmland.
Councillor since school days
I am the first ever mayor of Dubbo Regional Council but was first elected to Dubbo City Council 19 years ago while still at high school in Dubbo. I was doing my HSC the same year I was first elected to Council.
There’s not a lot of spare time as a mayor. You are accountable to the community 24/7.
As mayor in a regional city you are well recognised and understandably whether you are at the shops, in the main street or attending a private function there are residents and ratepayers that want to talk to you.
This is good because it shows people are interested and care about their community and Council’s involvement but there’s really no such thing as ‘out of hours’.
Consensus involves give and take
I said in my first speech to Council after being elected Mayor that, to the best of my ability, I will use consensus as a way to make decisions and unify the region.
When our ten councillors are working as a group, I particularly encourage all of us to be in regular contact with each other to facilitate working together as a group, and addressing issues that face the community as a group.
This is challenging given the commitments of all councillors, but we have found ways to improve efficiencies and make sure that our time together as councillors is productive.
Taking a new direction
The day has come when as a region we must take our social issues seriously. Despite the good work of our police, our crime rates are too high and too many lives are being wasted by drugs, unemployment, poor parenting and the crimes that happen as a consequence.
Dubbo Regional Council is taking on the issues of intergenerational social justice and crime, which is a new direction for council, and that’s being noticed around the state.
We are working collaboratively with the community on these issues and we are advocating for better services, including such things as residential rehabilitation services.
We are also focusing on delivering on the plans we make and giving firm deadlines for projects to be completed. This week for example we have set ourselves on the path to being one of the most accessible and inclusive local government areas in Australia for people with disability and mobility issues. We have a four year period in which to upgrade our footpaths and Council facilities to meet modern accessibility standards and we will set a due date to make it happen.
Supporting the community
Being able to help people is the best thing about being a councillor.
For example when the plans for the redevelopment of Dubbo Hospital did not include accommodating or relocating a community owned and operated childcare centre Playmates Cottage, it took the parents and the community to rally in support.
Thanks to the efforts of parents and the community, Dubbo Regional Council, in partnership with NSW Health Infrastructure, constructed a new Playmates Cottage Child Care Centre on Council owned land, purpose built to meet the needs of the staff and children of Playmates Cottage.
It is my sincere hope that in this role as the first mayor of the Dubbo Region, I can help create a united council driven on goodwill, growth and consensus.