20 March 2023

Temora Shire Mayor Rick Firman has dedicated his time and effort to his community

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Mayor Rick Firman.

Mayor Rick Firman says it’s getting “busier and busier” for council. Photo: Supplied.

We all have opinions on our local council and what they have or haven’t got right, but how well do you know the men and women elected to represent their community in local government? In this series, Region Riverina speaks to Riverina mayors to find out what makes them tick.

Who is Rick Firman? Good Lord! I’ve never been asked that question before. Rick Firman is a man who has a solid Christian faith, one who has a deep love and affection for his family and his Temora Shire community. He is a man who thrives on working hard to make a positive difference and make others feel valued. He thrives on being with people, listening, and learning from all age groups and backgrounds.

I am a man who respects his country and wants to do good for it. My shops and rural-regional local government, and Australian Football are among my main passions. I want to pack as much in as I can, hopefully making valuable contributions along the trail.

How have the past 12 months been on council? Temora Shire Council has had an extremely eventful 2022. Obviously, the flooding events have had a significant impact on our workforce and budget bottom line. However, I’m proud of everyone for keeping on top of things during some challenging times. We must remember we’re blessed compared to other communities who have been hit much worse with flooding than us.

It was extremely exciting for us to officially open our $5.5 million airport upgrade with special thanks to our Member for Riverina Michael McCormack. We also opened our $2.2 million Temora Swimming Pool upgrade, with thanks to the council and our Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke. There are so many more highlights, which is lovely to reflect on because we’ve certainly had our share of issues – none of which we can’t handle. It just seems to become busier and busier for us, however, as councillors and staff, we all just keep doing our very best for our community we cherish so dearly.

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What’s been your biggest achievement so far? The council has achieved a great deal since it was formed in 1981. Our biggest achievement would have to be winning the battle to remain a standalone council. During that ‘Fit for the Future’ process, it was very hard for us as councillors, staff, and the community. We believe the State Government genuinely wanted to strengthen local government, however, our council and community strongly held the view that forced mergers are not appropriate for a raft of reasons.

For a few years, all we did was eat, sleep, and think about mergers. It was a very intense period and we backed ourselves in. The prayers, strength, support and love we received from our shire community were something very special – it kept us going in our fight to remain a standalone council. We shall remain forever grateful to our citizens for their ongoing belief in us.

We’re grateful to our former state MP Katrina Hodgkinson and former local government minister Paul Toole as he listened to us, and believed in us and our exciting future. We’ll never take for granted our standalone status. We’ll continue to work hard. This is, by far, the biggest achievement for us and we did it by working together.

What are your priorities for 2023? Well, where do we start? Obviously, we must get on top of repairing our sealed and unsealed road network. We’re looking at a minimum of $6.5 million in damage. We’re most grateful to our State Government which has given us two rounds of funding to assist with flood damage repair. We’re calling on the Federal Government to please consider matching the State’s support for us.

Council will continue working closely with Ms Cooke, Murrumbidgee Local Health District, Temora Local Health Advisory Council and Temora District Hospital team to continue working on the masterplan of our $80 million new hospital. Our entire council and community are most excited about this very exciting project.

The council’s most significant priority will be recruiting a new general manager. Our long-serving general manager Gary Lavelle will retire after 28 years. He’s given us exceptional service, and whoever is selected for the role will have mighty big boots to fill. We hope to have our new general manager commence by July while Mr Lavelle can enjoy a well-earned retirement. There’s always so much going on in local government and we’re more than up to tackling an exciting year ahead!

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Is there anything different you’d like to see on council? Yes – I’d like to see the NSW Office of Local Government and various other State Government departments streamline their expectations of councillors and staff. The workload for us all has increased greatly, and my genuine concern is that the increased workload can be a genuine deterrent, especially to potential councillor candidates. Otherwise, I think settling in a new general manager will be more than enough big change for council.

What’s your vision for Temora? Well, that’s a big question. My answer to that would be, I’d like a healthy, prosperous, innovative and caring shire community to continue. I’d like natural growth for Temora Shire. These two current housing estate developments are most exciting for our council and community. However, we would like to grow, not lose our sense of ‘rural community’. I believe we’re tracking very well on this path.

It’s also important for us to encourage and promote the many career opportunities within our local council, and the local government sector more broadly. There is a skills crisis in many areas of employment; however, local government has to help ourselves and continue with various strategies to gain new health and building surveyors, engineers, plant operators, et cetera. To work for one’s community – which is essentially what working for council is doing – is an enormous privilege.

I’d also like to see us continue enhancing our business and industry offerings, which will create further employment.

We also need to work harder on encouraging more volunteers. We are blessed with many volunteers as it is. However, we need younger ones to keep coming through and this is crucial as far as council is concerned, as volunteers are part of the very heartbeat of our Temora Shire community and what helps make us tick.

I’d also like the council to continue our good road network. Over decades, Temora Shire Council has prided itself on a solid, sealed and unsealed road network, and we will work hard to continue this practice. Recent flooding events have certainly hurt us, like countless other rural councils, however, with State and Federal Government support, we’ll maintain this practice to the best of our ability.

Overall, I simply want every citizen who is a part of our Temora Shire community to feel relevant, to feel appreciated and realise they are just as important as the next. We all have a role to play and, wherever possible – we must do our bit to continue making Temora Shire the strong community we always have been.

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