Navigating catastrophic natural disasters and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic are top of mind in Corangamite Shire Council's outgoing director of corporate and community services David Rae's achievements.
Mr Rae will be leaving his role after 10 years on April 8 and will join Moyne Shire Council as director of community and corporate support.
He said he was leaving Corangamite Shire Council in a strong financial position and had achieved all he'd set out to.
"The council's financial position is quite strong and that's important because it allows the organisation to withstand future challenges," Mr Rae said.
"We're seeing that play out at the moment through the rising cost of materials and contractor availability. For me, leaving the place in a strong position is something I've been proud to have achieved with the team."
He said there were three major challenges he faced during his time in the top role.
"The team has a mindset of being quite prudent and responsible with financial management and responding to challenges as they arise and there have been three significant turning points council had to respond to during my time," he said.
"One was an old superannuation scheme known as defined benefit fund. At that time there was a call on council for $2.8 million and that was one financial shock council had to adjust to. Operations had to change to fund that liability.
"After that, there was federal government freezing indexing on financial assistance grants and that was significant because it amounted to a large amount of money in terms of increasing the grants over a period of time.
"If you're not getting a pay rise every year in the long term that plays a big impact in terms of your budget. We accommodated that through a range of different initiatives. The premise of that was living within your means and we had to adjust to living within a lower level of income and we did that without impact on community or employment.
"Finally we had the introduction of rate capping. We had a rate capped environment and historically in Corangamite Shire, the rate had been increasing above consumer price index. We had to adjust the budget and expenditure to accommodate that change.
"What we did in response to those three financial shocks allowed council to operate and offer a great range of services for the community and ensure when disaster came around we could tackle them."
IN OTHER NEWS
He said unforeseen natural disasters also provided plenty of challenges during his time.
"Natural disasters are part and parcel with what councillors have to respond to from time to time and as a council you are prepared for that inevitability be it fire of flood," he said.
"I recall the St Patrick's Day fire was on a Saturday evening. I remember a phone call from the CEO - council's role is to support emergency services in providing resources from closing roads or clearing streets or providing relief centres.
"We had a number of those centres and on Sunday I spent all evening and overnight at Port Campbell managing that centre and there were visitors coming down the Great Ocean Road. There was a language barrier issue and while we were encouraging tourists to come down previously, we were directing them to make their way to Warrnambool.
"The power was off and you were seeing visitors coming through and also members of the community coming down to the coastline looking for refuge.
"That was probably 48 hours we were at the Port Campbell relief centre which was at the surf club. It was probably Monday morning when I drove back to Camperdown and saw the devastation from burned out vegetation and a lot of smoke.
"That fire didn't stop once it was extinguished, it kept going through peat fires. It was important to support the community, particularly Cobden and as a council we supported them with a relief centre out of Terang for a number of weeks until the peat fire was able to be extinguished and the air quality improved.
"It was an interesting experience that I wouldn't wish upon anyone, luckily there were no lives lost. As a council I am proud of how we responded at that time."
He said he was also proud of how he and his team responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Very early on in 2020 before the budget we discussed with council a range of options that could be provided to support the community at that time," he said.
"It was pretty evident it was going to be tough heading into lockdown and restrictions which would potentially impact businesses. A range of options were workshopped with council and they ended up supporting a range of initiatives including a zero per cent rate rise for the 2021 financial year.
"It was a $4.8 million package of which around two million was supported through a state government grant through the Working With Victoria Initiative. It allowed council to employ more than 40 positions for a short amount of time - people who had lost their jobs and had come back to the region.
"That was also beneficial in terms of the organisation but also the community, being able to deliver projects to the community at that time just around relief and recovery initiatives. That's something I'm proud of and preceding that there was a lot of hard work to get into that position of ensuring council was in a financial position and could afford to make that commitment."
He thanked Corangamite Shire Council and said he looked forward to the next chapter of his career.
"I've been at Corangamite Shire Council for 10 years and looking back the ethos I work by is making sure I leave the organisation in a better place - I think I've achieved that," he said.
"Opportunities in south-west Victoria don't come along very often and for me Moyne Shire was attractive because it's a new set of challenges that I can take on. It's a new objective and I'm quite energised by that.
"Looking back at Corangamite Shire, I think I've given 10 good years and I'm looking forward to supporting the organisation and council of Moyne Shire and helping them to achieve their objectives.
"It's time for someone else to have a go and I think renewal is good. I wish whoever going into the role the best of luck and it's been a privilege to work with Corangamite Shire.
"Andrew Mason has been a great chief executive officer and I'll miss working with him - he's a great mentor and we'll leave as friends.
"Council have also been awesome to work with and the professional relationships within the organisation aren't something I've taken for granted. They're really talented people and they do great work for the community."
Chief executive officer Andrew Mason wished Mr Rae well.
"During the 10 years we have worked together I have greatly appreciated his tremendous work ethic, advice, expertise and friendship," he said.
Former Moyne Shire chief executive officer David Madden will step in to become acting director for Corangamite Shire after Easter.
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