Rous County Council Chair Keith Williams says there won’t be any jobs lost as part of the council’s facilities merger and move to Ballina.
The chair’s reassurances came after Country Labor Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin expressed concerns about job losses in Lismore, home to Rous headquarters, due to the move.
‘Despite unfortunate public conjecture, I can assure the community that no jobs will be lost when Council moves to the Gallans Road site,’ Councillor Williams said via a media release last week.
Council chair promises to speak with unions
The council had more than 70 staff spread across four main premises, the media release said, and planned to consolidate the team into the one site in Ballina by mid-2024.
The council was renting office space in Lismore’s CBD; a large depot in South Lismore; another weeds depot in East Lismore; and a flood mitigation depot at Woodburn.
Speaking to The Echo on Monday, Cr Williams said consultation would happen with staff before the move, planned to happen over three years, and unions would be included in discussions.
Price of Rous Council new HQ undeclared
Cr Williams said he couldn’t disclose how much Rous paid for the organisation’s new home but the publicly funded council ‘did very well’ and that the purchase would lead to significant long-term savings as existing rent factors were eventually eliminated from budgets.
The new site was close to two major highways, the M1 and the Bruxner Highway, and Cr Williams said the location would make it easier for staff to travel throughout the region as part of the council’s work.
The council represented four local governments (Lismore City, Bryon, Ballina and Richmond Valley Shires) but also served clients in the Tweed and Kyogle shires in terms of weeds management.
Rainforest walk and amphitheatre to open to public
Cr Williams said he was excited about the council’s purchase of a 70-hectare piece of land in Ballina that used to belong to the parent company of well-known tea tree oil manufacturer, Thursday Plantation and still featured some 50 hectares of tea trees.
The council was contracting out management of the tea tree farm for the next three years while it prepared to move.
Cr Williams said the site also featured a rainforest walk, outdoor amphitheatre and visitor centre, all of which Rous planned to use as part of its expanding community engagement practices.
The council chair said he hoped the rainforest walk would be open to the public and that school groups, farmers and others could come to the centre for workshops on water conservation.
‘Water conservation is one of our really important primary steps for future water supply,’ Cr Williams said.
The land used for tea tree farming had ‘potential for wetland reconstruction’, Cr Williams said, as well as ‘pilot work with recycled water’ thanks to the existence of a recycled water main on an adjacent property.
The remaining 20 hectares was elevated, he said, and already featured labs, offices, food processing areas, and warehouses the council was to rent out until it moved in.
‘We don’t need to build anything new,’ Cr Williams said.