Beautification of the area, improved roads and better cycleways are among the top priorities of Taree residents.
These were identified at the latest MidCoast Council community conversations session.
Despite low numbers, council held a productive session at the Taree chambers on Wednesday, October 6 to address ongoing projects, ideas and concerns.
The session was led by general manager Adrian Panuccio and infrastructure and engineering services director Rob Scott. Mayor David West, deputy mayor Claire Pontin and councillors Jan McWilliams and Troy Fowler also attended.
The priorities list was drawn from the first round of conversations in May, with advocacy for additional policing, social housing, health and educational services coming out on top.
Mr Panuccio said council won't turn a blind eye to these issues but they are obligations of higher levels of government.
"When funding opportunities arise, we will apply," Mr Panuccio said.
"I know it is a concern of the community but it is a State and federal issue that we will lobby."
He added council is open to any ideas on these issues.
Beautification of the region and improving roads, footpaths and cycleways are common among all communities, according to Mr Scott.
A future funding strategy is looking into the beautification aspect. An example of how this has worked was the seven day makeover in Tuncurry earlier this year.
"We worked with the community to come up with these ideas," Mr Scott said.
"Developing the future funding program is a long term process."
Information for the strategy is already being collected. This includes traffic and pedestrian levels.
"We're going to update the old information to help us make wise decisions," Mr Scott said.
Road repairs and bridge replacements in suburban areas continue as expected.
"There's still more roads that need to be fixed but it's being done," Mr Panuccio said.
Mr Scott said the council has a regional roads focus due to high volumes of traffic.
"These are high risk areas that have high speeds," Mr Scott said.
Mr Scott said a positive from this approach is ensuring rehabilitation projects are permanently removed from the maintenance program.
He credited the joint council and State government $100 million funding package, announced in 2018, for chipping away at the infrastructure backlog.
In the future, it's hoped council will create a 'better way of communication' to provide residents with information of where and when road works will be carried out and updates for projects such as pothole filling.
In terms of cycleways and footpaths, council is in the process of creating a pedestrian plan.
This will gathers information from the former Greater Taree City, Great Lakes and Gloucester Shire councils and other strategies.
A draft plan is set to be completed by early next year and put before council before the end of the 2019-20 financial year.
During a discussion on the issue, a resident flagged concern about cars parking on cycleways in Taree's CBD.
Those in attendance at the meeting then posted notes on boards to outline their thoughts on each priority. These were discussed in a question and answer forum.
Council's management and implementation of level three water restrictions next week and the process involved with recycled water was a hot topic.
Mr Scott said research will look at the possibility of another dam, utilising the borefield at Nabiac and integrating a water cycle plan.
He added the next 20 years will hopefully change the stigma involved with using recycled water.
"The drought has produced an opportunity to talk to the community about recycled water," Mr Scott said.
Planting more trees was another issues raised at the session. Mr Panuccio outlined how trees were being planted in cohesion with strategies such as installing shade sails at playgrounds.
Other points of interest included a homeless shelter for men, the standard of road works and the installation of more walking trails.
Council is halfway through the follow-up sessions. Stroud, Hallidays Point, Wingham, Tea Gardens and Nabiac will be the locations throughout November.
At the community conversations session in Taree, one resident questioned the credibility of the exercise.
With its informal approach to workshop ideas with residents, Mr Scott said the sessions weren't a means to an end.
While all information is taken into consideration, having 400 to 500 people attend the 12 sessions across the area presented a starting point to identify the pressing issues.
"In terms of a sample of the community, that's worked out well," Mr Scott said.
Despite a change to 10am from a 6pm slot, the second Taree session attracted just nine people.
The previous Taree and Forster sessions had even lower numbers, with smaller communities such as Tea Gardens attracting upwards of 120 people.
Mr Panuccio said population sizes will never determine the turnout to a conversation session but rather the drive of the community to attend.
Council encouraged interested residents who couldn't attend the session to make submissions online.
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