REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Council has been named among a number of other municipalities as unsustainable in a new report.
Northern Grampians Shire Council Mayor, Cr Wayne Rice said the Local Government Financial Sustainability Review made some very clear findings.
"Northern Grampians Shire Council has been found to be one of the most unsustainable in the state," he said.
Cr Rice said people within the council area don't appear to be aware of the situation the municipality finds itself in.
"Being labelled as one of the 20 most unsustainable shires means we can't keep going in the direction we are heading," he said.
Merv and Rohan Whelan found the factors impacting on costs for council include population size, remoteness and density.
The report found 'there is an indisputable relationship between cost per head and size of population, large populations support the achievement of economics of scale, resulting in lower service costs'.
It said 'the increase in recurrent cost per head from large to small municipalities accelerates as population falls below 50,000, and becomes far more pronounced below 15,000.
"It is time the community comes together and thinks about what to do to turn things around," Cr Rice said.
"We need to protect the population we have and encourage more people to come here."
The report found that population number has the biggest impact on cost per head.
It found it costs $1,699 per head in the Northern Grampians Shire, a 112 per cent increase on the $800 per head in a Low Density Metro council area like Frankston.
All eighteen of the small rural and medium rural councils have either negative or very negative sustainability ratings.
The report found Medium Rural classified councils sustainable capacity had dropped over seven per cent between 2007 and 2010 and was continuing to fall.
The report said the decreases were due mainly to a decline in corporate incomes following the global financial crisis and an increase in operating costs above the inflation rate.
It found councils including Northern Grampians Shire will have long-term financial sustainability concerns.
Cr Rice said when it comes to contentious plans such as the proposed Big Hill Enhanced Development Project in Stawell, the Council needs to take the big picture into account.
"We need to look at the big picture, what is best for the entire community," he said.
"At this point in time we have the opportunity to keep the mine going, beyond that we need ideas.
"My position is we will be in a better position learning to live without the mine.
"We need to encourage new industry, new business and new investment.
"We as a community need to work together to create a diversity of industry in the town."
Cr Rice said the current issues surrounding the opening hours of the pools at the Stawell Leisure Complex was an example of where costs have affected service delivery.
"The leisure centre has been losing money so was forced to cut back hours," Cr Rice said.
"If more people used it during those times, then it would become more viable and wouldn't have to close.
"People need to understand that if they want it, they can have it, but they also have to pay for it.
"If we go ahead and cut rates then we don't have the income and can't deliver the services they expect.
"People really need to understand that."
The report also found a heavy reliance by councils including Northern Grampians Shire on recurrent government grants for services such as health, welfare, recreation and roads.
"We've been given clear indications and strong messages from both state and federal governments not to expect any grant money," he said.
"As a result we as a council will have to be looking at the provision and delivery of services this year," Cr Rice said.
Cr Rice said the money they do receive only goes so far.
"We were given $50,000 from the State Government as part of roadside management, to clear pests and weeds.
"Within that we are expected to buy the vehicle, provide the training and a person's wage for a year."
Cr Rice said Stawell in particular needs new investment.
"We need new business to make up for the loss of jobs and impact on our economy as a result of the closure of the mine," he said.
"I want to send out a message here and now to people who are thinking about or would like to do business in Stawell and the region.
"If there are existing organisations contemplating expansion we want to encourage and entice that growth.
"You can come to me and I will ask three things, where are you at, where are you going to and how can I help."