City's budget to focus on strategic planning

New public infrastructure projects in Wollongong could be few and far between next year as the city's councillors reveal they want to prioritise strategic planning and upgrades to ageing assets over new construction in their next budget.

Councillors are set to begin planning for the 2013-14 council budget later this month.

They are expected to meet several times in the coming months in a bid to thrash out the details of what will and won't be funded in the new financial year.

However, a list compiled by the Mercury outlining each of the councillor's top priorities indicates new big-budget items, with the exception of those already under way, are likely to be absent from the capital works program next year.

Councillors have instead renewed their focus on fixing run-down assets, including continuing their sweeping upgrade of the city's ailing footpaths and cycleways and ongoing road maintenance.

Councillors have indicated only a handful of new works, or preliminary planning for new works, will be put forward for funding consideration.

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Ideas include establishing ornamental gardens in town centres, new shared pathways linking the city east to west, a feasibility study into setting up a regional mountain bike park and constructing a viewing platform at Port Kembla's Hill 60.

Strategic planning will also be a top priority for the council next year.

Labor's Ann Martin and Liberal councillor Michelle Blicavs will jointly advocate for a specialist urban planner to be appointed to the council's senior management team to create a strategic vision for the city.

Cr Blicavs said many of the issues the council had dealt with during the past 18 months centred around city planning and contentions over land use.

"This is an issue we're facing time and time again as a city, whether it's out-of-date policies or simply an absence of any plans," she said.

"We have to use the land we have better and we need someone with these specific skills to work with our planning and community services teams to develop a long-term strategy for how we do this."

Several councillors have also said they want to speed up the remaining town and village plans yet to be completed.

But despite the apparent lack of big-ticket items vying for funds, Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has warned councillors they will still face budget constraints next year.

"It is going to be a tight budget," he said, adding a capped rates system and the ever-increasing demand for council services and projects will force councillors to make tough decisions.

"We have a backlog of infrastructure dating back to the 1960s that is reaching the end of its lifespan.

"We also have [the] West Dapto [access strategy] that will take up a major chunk of our capital works funding.

"It's not sexy I know, but from my perspective these areas have been neglected for a long time and they need to be addressed."

WHAT COUNCILLORS WANT

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery

Prioritise beach management works

Continue to fund footpath upgrades in the city

Advance town and village plans

WARD 1:

Leigh Colacino

■  Advancing the Grand Pacific Way construction

■  Preparation work to establish the Wollongong Sculpture Award

■  Footpath upgrades in northern ward one suburbs

Janice Kershaw

■  Focus on improving existing infrastructure requirements

■  Complete Corrimal town centre revitalisation masterplan

■  Fund Corrimal pool upgrades 

Jill Merrin

■  Increase funding to Illawarra District Noxious Weeds Authority

■   Speed up finalising town and village plans

■  Establish ornamental gardens in key town centres

Greg Petty

■  Declined to name individual projects. Will instead ask community members via his personal website to nominate their preferred projects/services for funding and present ideas for budget consideration.

WARD 2:

David Brown

■  Upgrade footpaths on the outskirts of the  central business district

■  Upgrade cycleways in Figtree, Gwynneville and Unanderra

■  Advance the feasibility studies into establishing a regional museum

Michelle Blicavs

■  Appointing a specialist urban design planner

■  Progress precinct plans for Unanderra, Figtree and Gwynneville/Keiraville

■  Advance footpath renewal projects

George Takacs

■  Develop a comprehensive urban greening strategy

■  Plan for the establishment of pathways linking the city east to west

■  Investigate the feasibility of setting up a regional mountain bike track

John Dorahy

■  Progress works in the Wollongong CBD

■  Develop strategies to increase business in Wollongong

■  Fund further improvements to the Blue Mile precinct to increase visitor numbers

WARD 3:

Bede Crasnich

■  Two additional permanent part-time youth workers for ward three

■  Extending operating hours at the Western Suburbs pool

■  More money into road maintenance

Vicki Curran

■  Major renovations to Warrawong Community Centre

■  Advance road work plans for West Dapto

■  Create ‘place management’ positions for each ward

Chris Connor

■  Fund the Berkeley skate plaza project

■  Install disabled access at Dapto pool

■  Progress road  building in West Dapto

Ann Martin

■  Fund a specialist urban design planner

■  Set up a community cultural development program

■  Build a viewing platform on Hill 60

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