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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Byron Shire Council’s performance review is in!

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Paul Bibby

It’s often said anecdotally that the monthly gatherings of our esteemed representatives are longer than you find elsewhere, and now we have the proof.

The annual review of Council performance by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) has found that the average Byron Council meeting during the last financial year went for a marathon 469 minutes.

This compares to just 144 minutes for other councils.

To be fair, we are getting more bang for our buck, with Byron Council making more decisions (69) per meeting than other councils (24).

But the efficiency rate is still lagging behind and the meetings are getting longer – up 42 minutes on average from the previous year. 

As Council staff are quick to point out, comparing Byron to the rest of the state is a tricky business owing to our unique ‘local circumstances’.

These circumstances might go some way to explaining why we are so far behind when it comes to the condition of our roads.

The PWC review found that just 11 per cent of Byron’s roads were in good condition compared to the median of 59 per cent for other regional councils.

The impact of more than two million visitors coming into the Shire each year is undoubtedly contributing to this situation.

Byron Council appears to be struggling manfully to address the problem, spending 47 per cent more on roads than the median expenditure for the state as a whole. Yet we still appear to be going backwards, with the proportion of roads in good condition falling 40 per cent over the past two financial years.

It isn’t all Cs and Ds for Byron Council on the annual report card, though. Council has greater gender equity than many other NSW councils. Forty per cent of staff in management positions and above are women, compared to 31 per cent for the rest of the state.

Byron Council staff also take far fewer days off owing to injury than the state average (just 24 days compared to 88 days).

Council employees also appear to be working more overtime than their counterparts elsewhere.

Council forked out $3,640 per employee on overtime in the 2018 financial year, compared with $2,899 for the rest of the state.

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  1. Well not a lot of surprise in this, but, seeing road degradation is mentioned. A lot of roads seem beyond pothole fixing and need complete resurfacing, however, the pothole fixing method is clearly a giant fail. Maybe Council needs to look further afield for ways to effectively patch potholes. Christchurch NZ would be my first suggestion. Their method is to cut the pothole out in a rectangle then patch it going over the boundary of the hole and roll it to compact the fill…I’m sure they would share their skills if requested.

  2. As a retired GM (15 years) from a coastal council in NSW, but a long way south of Byron, I have to register my disappointment with the PWC results at Byron. Firstly I am concerned that PWC apparently thinks that short meetings are a good thing. In my experience democracy is best served when councils take the time to publicly debate issues and listen to the concerns of their communities. It is definitely a slow, and sometimes painful process, but that is democracy. Sometimes our meetings would go through the night until the early hours of the morning of the next day however the high quality of the decisions, and the community’s confidence in the council were the very definite benefits of competent decision making. Some members of the community would comment to the effect that they didn’t agree with the decision but they respected the way we went about it and so would accept the result. So, if PWC actually wanted to rate councils on their democratic performance perhaps they should be championing the opposite criteria than the on they chose to use; that is, councils who have fast meetings are potentially not serving democracy, nor their communities well.
    As for the roads, the State used to recognise that rural roads were as much a State as a Council issue and therefore used to fund them accordingly. In a touch of financial brilliance State Treasury decided that the State should withdraw much of its funding and so make the State Budget look better….I wonder why councils throughout country NSW are now struggling with their biggest outlay; funding road repairs? you don’t have to be very smart to know the answer.
    The problem is particularly marked in areas such as Byron because many of the roads are in flood prone areas, or areas of poor soils for road construction. This make robust road construction very expensive because unless the sub-grade of the road is well constructed so it is well drained the road will easily “pot hole”. While you can use a variety of methods to “fix” individual pot holes, as soon as you do, another one “pops-up”….or more accurately “pops-down” due to the failure of the sub-grade….and yes, as well as being an ex GM I am also an ex civil engineer. Pity PWC doesn’t appear to have the benefit of road making, and historical road funding background otherwise they would have recognised and articulated the real problem rather than simply observing the issue.
    Observations rather than definitions of the issues and provision of solutions is the real issue, what a missed opportunity! The real question is, why doesn’t the State use people who have an understanding of the issues and solutions….perhaps they actually don’t want the answers?


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