Tourism and roads are high on the priority list of Tenterfield Shire Council’s new CEO Terry Dodds, not surprisingly given his background.
He hails from the touristy Bega Valley Shire Council on the south coast of NSW, where he most recently served as Director of Transport and Utilities.
Having barely warmed the chair in his Rouse St office Mr Dodds has hit the road, exploring corners of the shire he now manages. The weekend prior to his first monthly council meeting on October 25 he spent the Saturday doing the circuit down to Drake, around Rocky River and back to Tenterfield.
The Sunday was spent in the company of Councillor Gary Verri, a passionate advocate of promoting tourism in the far north-east of the shire where the pair spent 10 hours driving around Urbenville and surrounds.
“This area has been gifted with so much beauty,” he said.
“We’re a high-country town on the Great Dividing range, with great biodiversity, and close to large population centres. It’s a massive gift.”
Another weekend is earmarked for heading south-west to the Torrington corner of his domain.
“I hope to see enough of the shire’s geography, communities and people to be able to paint a mental picture,” Mr Dodds said.
While he probably won’t get to drive on every road, in his first month or so on the job he hopes to cover enough of the shire to get a grasp on its road network, which he said has held up remarkably well given the recent rains.
“Any council with a low population and a lot of roads will stretch the maintenance budget and it’s always a challenge,” he said. With a 20-year background in engineering and infrastructure he said he’s quick to make observations in that quarter.
Other challenges topping his to-do list include aligning council’s organisation structure with its demands, although he doesn’t anticipate changing too much. He’s more interested in finetuning actions and processes to deliver ‘more bang for the buck’.
Covering a large geography he said he wants to to connect quickly and easily throughout the district without an enormous quantity of paper, and is looking to improve clarity on what needs to be done, why, by whom, and was resources are required.
“The processes are quite advanced already, but any improvement helps,” he said.
He has rapidly become a big fan of Tenterfield.
“I see a lot of opportunity in tourism here, and that’s why I put my hand up,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful place, in a pristine area.”
Mr Dodds is keen to undertake a tourism audit, to see what everyone’s doing or not doing and ensuring we’re not missing opportunties. He said improvment in transport will make areas more accessible.
He’s looking forward to working with the Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business to align goals and aspirations, and to attending breakfast meetings with business owners to gauge opportunities in that sector.
His familiarisation process included staff meetings and one-on-ones with councillors to leverage their local experience.
“I learned some of the history, and got a heads-up of what’s currently on council’s plate,” he said.
Common themes to emerge were that everyone was working well together, and working hard to make Tenterfield Shire better. He said there was little in the way of negative comments, and generally everyone is looking for continuing improvement.
“That’s very satisfying to hear, from a CEO point of view,” he said.