Tamworth councillors are coming back from their summer break ready to take a swing at the NSW government, dive into plans for a new aquatic centre, and re-name the city's central meeting hub.
Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) will convene on Tuesday, February 13, for its first meeting of the year, and the Leader has identified three key items on the agenda for you to keep an eye on.
An 'unrelenting' financial burden
A motion to council penned by mayor Russell Webb rails against "extraordinary" pressure being placed on councils by the state government, pressure he says is threatening TRC's financial viability.
The mayor's motion references research conducted by consultancy firm Morrison Low, which found the NSW government has been passing $1.36 billion of expenses on to the state's local councils each year since 2022.
The research report says the "cost burden" has increased more than "78 per cent from $820 million per year in just over five years" across all councils since 2016.
The state government has recently resolved to allow councils significantly higher rate rises to help them recoup some of these costs from ratepayers, but Tamworth Regional Council has said these changes are too little, too late.
Cr Webb's motion to council says years of cost shifting has resulted in "lost services, lost opportunity and lost amenity for all our residents".
"They go without better roads, they go without better parks, they go without important community services that only councils provide," the mayor writes.
He requests approval from his fellow councillors to write an official letter to the Premier, the NSW Treasurer and the NSW Minister for Local Government "seeking that they urgently seek to address these costs through a combination of regulatory reform, budgetary provision and appropriate funding".
His motion also requests council publish the research report on cost shifting on the TRC website.
Aquatic Centre makes waves
Towards the end of the meeting, councillors will consider the outcome of a call for bids on a contract to design Tamworth's new $45 million aquatic and sports health centre.
Since the call for bids ended soon after council's last meeting of the year, councillors authorised the general manager Paul Bennett to choose a preferred tenderer.
Mr Bennett awarded the tender contract to CO.OP Studio Pty Ltd, an architecture firm based in Surry Hills.
Councillors will discuss this outcome in a meeting closed to the public as details of the contract are considered commercial in confidence.
Councillors will see an "indicative concept layout" for the new facility, and a full development design will be submitted to TRC at a later date.
An official development application (DA) for the new swimming facility is expected to follow soon after the design is approved.
As long as council receives the necessary grant funding and there are no problems with the DA, the local government will look to hire a construction company near the end of this year with the aquatic centre's completion scheduled for mid-2026.
City centre to get a new name
The heart of Tamworth's CBD and meeting ground for many of the city's major events could be getting a new name by the end of the year.
The section of Fitzroy Street in between Peel Street and Kable Avenue [opposite Bicentennial Park] doesn't have an official name, though locals often know it as Fitzroy Street Mall or Fitzroy Plaza.
TRC has been mulling over its options on an official name for the central business plaza for about a year and the name "Fitzroy Place" was officially endorsed by the Tamworth City Centre Working Group in November 2023.
If council accepts the group's recommendation this week, the proposed name will be sent to the NSW Geographic Names Board, then go on public exhibition to give the community a chance to have its say.
After public exhibition the name change will come back to councillors for final approval.