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Rates at work
Geelong Advertiser, Geelong  by Bruce Harwood
12 Dec 2018
General News - Page 17 - 778 words - ID 1049976482 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 411.00cm2

IT'S well known that council collects the bins and fixes potholes in the roads (and yes, I know many would like them fixed quicker).

A common description of local government's role is the three Rs - rates, roads and rubbish.

Many would also be aware that it's our job to build and maintain community facilities such as sports fields and playgrounds, to register pets, and to decide on planning applications for new buildings.

But the City of Greater Geelong's role in the community goes far beyond that, and your rates in fact fund a full 126 activities and services. Some of these may surprise you.

For example, it's the City that employs the 200-plus schoolcrossing supervisors you see helping our children safely cross the road on their way to school each day.

Your rates also pay for the power to run every street-light in the region - about 22,000 of them all up.

The City organises and hosts an Australian citizenship ceremony every month at City Hall.

This year we've welcomed about 570 local residents as new citizens, and it's always great to see the pride this brings to them and their families.

There are three full-time staff who drive the roads and walk the footpaths of the region all day, every day, reporting where minor repairs or full-scale replacements are needed. And the hundreds of statues, plaques and pieces of public art around Greater Geelong, including the famous waterfront bollards? They're the City's job to maintain as well.

Along with neighbouring councils, we help fund the region's libraries.

Following last week's opening of the new Leopold Library, there are now 17 much-loved community libraries under the Geelong Regional Libraries Corporation umbrella.

Council's annual budget also funds staff who work with select groups in our community.

I have a lot of admiration for the City's youth development team. They deliver an enormous range of programs in schools, community centres and other parts of the region, in the past three months alone engaging with about 8000 young people.

They've started facilitating a fantastic mental health first aid program that teaches students how to help if their friends are showing signs of poor mental health.

Over the coming years, the aim is for this to be delivered to every school student in Greater Geelong, while a similar program for teachers and parents is also available to every school.

The City's healthy communities team does a mountain of work tackling some of the challenging social issues in our community, such as homelessness, family violence and obesity. Their approach is to respect everyone and to work with people's strengths to achieve positive results.

For the homeless, whose numbers are sadly rising in Australia, this means talking with people sleeping rough to understand their situation, and pointing them towards the right help, whether that's secure housing, food services or other.

There are many local agencies providing excellent assistance and services to the homeless, and the City's staff work closely with them.

On obesity, the City has initiatives to promote healthy eating and exercise.

Since 2013, walk to school month in October has encouraged local children and their parents to get active.

It's grown from 15 primary schools taking part in the first year to 38 in 2018, with more than 8800 students participating.

A practical step the City has taken towards a more inclusive community is the purchase of two beach wheelchairs, available for use free of charge on the Geelong waterfront. These can be booked via the Royal Geelong Yacht Club.

Those are just a few examples of what we do with your rates.

Some you may have known about, others maybe not. I've barely even touched on the huge capital works program carried out by the City Services team, nor have I mentioned the 150,000plus trees and 330 or so parks managed by Parks and Gardens, or the many great exhibitions at the National Wool Museum and shows at the Potato Shed.

Every year council signs off on a budget for all of this, and it's a difficult balancing act trying to make sure each area gets the funding it needs.

A key consideration is how each service fits in with the aims of our four-year council plan, and ultimately leads us towards our 30-year vision of a "clever and creative" city-region.

Really, we all just want Greater Geelong to be the best place for everyone to live - and the services paid for by your rates play an important role in making sure that's the case.

Bruce Harwood is the City of Great Geelong mayor.

Caption Text:
Left: Hudson Wilmott, 4, at the opening of the Leopold Library. Picture: MIKE DUGDALE

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