Shire notes: new guide not just for tourists

I WAS delighted to attend the Launch of the new Upper Hunter Country Tourism Guide last week and offer my congratulations to all involved in the production of the fantastic brochure.

From the stunning cover image by local photographer Katrina Partridge, through the heartfelt Foreword by Phillip Adams AO to the detailed descriptions of our local attractions, Festivals, accommodation and so very much more, this really is a high class and informative guide and, indeed, read. 

Many of you will know that the longstanding effort to get tourism firing on all cylinders in our region has oft been a bumpy road beset with needless obstacles, and while we’re not there yet - not even close, the new guide is unquestionably a major step in the right direction. “Come on up!”. Upper Hunter Country Tourism also has a website www.upperhuntercountry.com and is on Facebook too. 

While many of us increasingly turn to the internet for quick information (even if some of its darker corners aren’t necessarily accurate), it is also handy to have around a dog-eared, hold-in-your-hand, stash in the glove-box, guide to the region with you on your travels.

You don’t have to be a tourist to pick one up at Council offices or the Visitor Information Centres in Scone, Merriwa, Murrurundi  (and VICS outside the Shire).

Upper Hunter Country Tourism is well supported by the councils of Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter, one of a number of areas where we work together to try and offer the best possible services to residents and it was great to have both Mayors at the launch.

Act NOW! Scone Bypass and Overpass 

After years of draft designs, discussions and consultation around Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)’ proposed bypass and overpass project for Scone, we are rapidly reaching a point of no return.

Council, the Scone Chamber of Commerce and many individual residents are very concerned at the latest RMS draft design, particularly the exits and entrances to Scone.

Council’s Infrastructure Services team have prepared our latest submission responding to RMS’s latest proposal. We still hope to get better outcome for the residents and businesses of Scone and the Upper Hunter. 

If you haven’t already done so, your opportunity to give feedback direct to RMS closes tomorrow. We have had the draft designs available at Council offices or go to www.rms.nsw.gov.au and search for ‘Scone’.

Given the constraints of budget and building across a floodplain, it is a given that there will necessarily be compromises in design, however, we must not settle for a second grade result and this is perhaps our last opportunity to secure a workable, user friendly and practical solution.

Town revitalisation plans

Another meeting which put a spring in my step occurred when Councillors were briefed last week on draft plans for Aberdeen, Merriwa, Murrurundi and Scone that have been prepared by planning consultants Studio GL, following community consultations in each of the towns.

I was impressed by how the consultants have listened to and taken on board the community’s feedback and ideas and the level of understanding that they have displayed with the plans for our towns, they ‘got it’.

The draft plans are currently being considered internally by Council and will then be put on public display towards the end of March for further comment and input from the community, before their final adoption.

Then we should be able to start planting, painting, and generally making our town centres friendlier, more vibrant and safer places for pedestrians and drivers.

I am really excited about some of the proposed projects. Whilst the Scone plan is somewhat dependent on the eventual bypass outcome, I don’t think I am giving too much away when I say Big Art, more greenery, and better definition between roads and footpaths and parks are on the cards. 

Coming Events

There are some big (mostly horsey) events coming up on the calendar . . . On Sunday Scone Race Club will host a Country Championships qualifying heat, with both the winner and runner up eligible to compete in the $400,000 final at Randwick on April 2nd.

On the track, boosted prize-money across the card will ensure keen competition, whilst off it, there’ll be loads of fun for the younger crowd with pony rides, face painting, a water slide and a jumping castle. Gates open at 11.30 with a shuttle bus service available from the railway station.

The following weekend sees the awesome King of The Ranges taking place in Murrurundi. In next to no time this showcase event has become the premier Stockman’s Challenge in NSW as well as a must attend Bushman’s Carnival, with so much to see and get involved in over the weekend.

Full listings and a schedule can be found on the event website www.kingoftheranges.com.au .

Scone Horse Trials is hosting the NSW State Championships at Broomfield just outside Gundy on March 5th and 6th. Spectator entry is free, so why not come along and see some Twilight Showjumping (on Saturday from 5.00pm) or watch the cross country phase on Sunday when Olympians past, present and future will be tackling the revamped and demanding cross country course.

Not long after that on March 11th and 12th it’s off to Muswellbrook for the Upper Hunter Regional Show where the region’s top show-jumpers, hackies, drafters and others will be giving their charges a final tune up before the big one, the Sydney Royal. 

Belltrees and Rouchel

What can be said apart from a massive well done to all involved in the annual Pink Stumps charity cricket match between these two local teams? I’m told that despite the heat, a great time was had by all, that over $12,500 was raised for the McGrath Foundation and that Rouchel gave Belltrees a proper shellacking (which means that Cr. Collison will be buying me a beer).

Incidentally, Belltrees cricket ground holds a special place in my heart, not only is it the most beautiful ground I’ve ever played on, but the only local ground where I haven’t been dismissed for a duck!

White Park Redevelopment

Whilst the Grant Funding Application made via the Federal Government’s National Stronger Regions Grant was unsuccessful (we missed out in the latest round by a single solitary point, but the good news is that we can reapply in the next round and have been given good advice on how to improve our score) Council’s application to the State Government’s Hunter Infrastructure Fund has been shortlisted for further consideration. 

As such, if you’re on the committee of one of White Park’s user groups and your group hasn’t completed the questionnaire and survey and returned it to Council, please do so ASAP as it will help inform the draft (nb not the final) plan that will be forwarded to the next stage. Fingers crossed.

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