Environment director calls it a day

Paul Mullins

After 39 years working for council, Director of Compliance and Environmental Services Paul Mullins has packed up his desk, modified the caravan, and is all set for retirement.

He took a Voluntary Redundancy as part of the merger process, along with Director of Corporate Services and Governance Alan Tonkin and Snowy Works and Services CEO Andrew Taylor.

Mr Mullins said he wasn’t particularly surprised at the redundancy request, although he was a little taken aback at the speed of it all – he had one week to make a decision before the new Snowy Valleys directors commenced their roles.

“Tumut had four directors, Tumbarumba had three, the new organisational structure has three. Seven doesn’t go into three, so it was inevitable that there would be some redundancies,” he said.

He expects that there will be more incoming news of further redundancies, which he estimates will be about 10 per cent of council staff.

“Most of the staff fortunately will just slot into similar or the same positions in the new organisation, but there’s going to be about 10 per cent where the staff won’t laterally transfer, so those positions will have to be contested,” he explained.

“So that will be concerning for 10 per cent of our workforce.”

However, Mr Mullins still backs the merger, although he thinks it will be a matter of years before the benefits start to trickle through. Those benefits, he predicts, will be financial – money saved from employing fewer staff as well as using only one IT system – and also, for Tumbarumba, the increased service capability that will come with a larger entity.

The downsides will be the obvious communication problems with offices located 50 kilometres apart.

“Distance is proving to be a bit of an issue already,” he said.

“Some of the Tumbarumba staff are coming down here several times a week, we occasionally go up there, and that’s a good hour and forty five out of your day, just travelling. When the IT systems are integrated that will improve the ability to have video conferencing, so we won’t have to travel as much.

“But either way, it’s happened. The captain’s not going to reverse the ship now, there’s been too much money spent on it – the $5 million to facilitate the merger and then the $10 million infrastructure funding. We’ve got staff changes happening. It would be harder to reverse it than just to continue on with it now.

“There were so many little councils out there that really should be merged. Places like Coolamon, tiny little councils that are just doing the bare essentials in terms of services. If they were merged it gives them more scale capacity and the finances to achieve more.

“People think they’re losing their identity but personally I don’t think they are. Tumbarumba’s still going to be Tumbarumba and Tumut’s still going to be Tumut…Adelong’s still Adelong and so on.”

Besides, the merger may have dominated the headlines for the past 14 months, but Mr Mullins has nearly four decades to reflect on. He believes over his time in council, three notable achievements stand out.

The first is in emergency response actions, through the Local Emergency Management Committee and the Local Rescue Committee.

“The community expects in the case of emergencies that there will be a swift and effective response,” he said.

“That doesn’t happen by chance, it’s all got to be planned and coordinated, so that’s what these committees do. Our committees were regarded as the best in the region in terms of their effectiveness and their enthusiasm.

“Another one was our heritage work, especially with Adelong Falls.

“I think Adelong Falls is the jewel in the crown of this shire, and it’s quite underrated with a lot of people in the community.”

Council’s actions in preserving the falls included employing a part-time conservation manager, Louise Halsey, building the viewing platform, acquiring land adjoining the falls, ensuring its inclusion on the NSW Gold Trails network, and relocating the stamper battery to the entrance. Mr Mullins is also proud of the council’s work around waste and recycling.

“We’ve achieved an enormous amount in that area over the years, starting with the closure of the Tumut landfill,” he said.

“We joined the South West Regional Waste Management Group which operates a regional landfill at Jugiong. We built the Tumut Waste and Recycling Centre out at Gilmore. The amount of waste going to landfill has dropped significantly thanks to the recycling programs that we’ve implemented.

“The arrangement we’ve got with Valmar is also a win-win. It’s not only providing the community with a very cost-effective recycling centre, but it also has social benefits in that it’s employing disabled people. So that arrangement with Valmar has been extremely valuable.

“We also built the reuse shop out there, so there’s again less waste going to landfill and it’s also generating a bit of income as well.”

However, Mr Mullins won’t have to think about any of that anymore. If anyone needs him, he’s likely to be found exploring the outback with his wife in an off-road caravan.

Tumbarumba Director Gus Cox will fill Mr Mullins’ role in the new Snowy Valleys Council.