Is the $2.5m Village Enhancement fund going begging?

By Paul Mullins

Well, an uninformed observer at last weeks Cabonne Council meeting could be forgiven for thinking so.

At its meeting on 26 April, Council considered  no less than 15 Expressions of Interest from streetscape design firms and landscape architects for the redesign of entrances and main streets in 11 Cabonne towns, villages and localities.

The Council has long set aside money for expert design and advice on such matters in a $2.5 million fund to implement a  Village Enhancement Program (VEP).
My memory of the VEP only extends back to 2006. A community consultation meeting was held in Molong in November of that year to consider “Urban Arc’s” comprehensive report covering everything from flower beds to streetlights. Some recommendations were proceeded with but the program fizzled out through no fault of anyone really.

In May this year Council, with $2.5 million reserved for village enhancement, resurected the scheme and called for suitable consultants to advise on doing up town approaches, main streets, signage etc. Prior to re-engaging any consultants council considered comments from members of the Cabonne Country Tourism Advisory and Small Towns Development Committees, as well as feedback from the community.

Council heard that the majority of feedback did not support the redesign and favoured more maintenance and mowing to enhance the existing natural assets of the towns, villages and localities.

So, even with $2.5 million on offer, Council’s feedback was just to enhance our town through maintenance, mowing and cleaning of public toilets etc.

This is what Council is supposed to do anyway – and allocates funds for this in other budgets.

I can understand the Committees not wanting to engage consultants again – when previous reports are still valid and local consultation would be ample to come up with improvements. I find it hard to believe that feedback from Committees was reduced to telling council to mow the grass and clean the toilets and do little else – but, intended or not,  that’s what it looks like.

For Molong alone, it has long been suggested that the transition of the lovely tree lined approach along the Mitchell Highway from Orange – to the sudden barren and less than appealing Watson St. past the entrance to Bank St needs work.

But perhaps all is not lost.

Clr Davison suggested some of the $2.5M in funds be allocated to pathways and Clr Dean noted the students who addressed Council earlier in the meeting had also requested pathways which he had asked to be prioritised on several occasions.

In response to a comment by Clr Davison who wished to correct the report that in fact the Cabonne Country Tourism Advisory Committee was not asked for comment the Acting Economic Development Manager advised that members were approached separately after the meeting.

It has also been agreed to action previous consultants’ reports – a good idea.

Council decided to:

1. Not proceed with the engagement of consultants to prepare plans for the redesign of town entrances and main streets in 11 Cabonne towns, villages and localities;
2. Investigate enhancing the natural attractions of each individual town, village and locality through maintenance, mowing and cleaning; and
3. Investigate a proposal to implement the existing street tree master plans, incorporating the capital improvement priorities submitted by each of the Shire’s progress associations.

And the $2.5 million sits there.

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