Editorial: Council’s handyman’s delight

Filed in Recent News by March 27, 2023

This one’s for chaps, whose skill postpones its imminent collapse!

IMAGINE you purchased a five-bedroom home in Scone, where rental properties were as rare as hen’s teeth, and left your investment in local hands to manage; only to return a few years later and find it hasn’t been rented out for years and a tree has grown through the roof.

Well, that’s exactly what has happened to a house the ratepayers of the Upper Hunter Shire Council own, 7 Surman Street, Scone, next door to the doctor’s surgery. 

The location provides the perfect opportunity for expansion of the Dr’s surgery, which we may need in the future.


When I first became a Councillor I requested a copy of the property register, which apparently wasn’t up to date, so wasn’t provided to me until August last year (while I was on leave).

When I sat in the local court last year and heard there were squatters in 7 Surman Street, Scone, next door to the doctor’s surgery, I began to dig a little more.

I went to the house with a Council staff member and Cr Lee Watts to inspect it and I took the photos – see them at the end of the editorial below.

I saw a tree branch approximately 20 centimetres in diameter growing through the roof of the house and wondered how much time it had taken to grow, how long Council had neglected to notice it growing, and how long Council had neglected the whole building?

There have been many questions I have asked Council and I’ve not received responses to them, but I’d like to know:

  • When was the property initially purchased?
  • How much money did Council pay for the property?
  • What was the initial reason for the purchase? I assume it may have been for the doctor’s surgery to expand at some stage, but wanted to be clear why.
  • When was it last rented out?
  • For how long has it been vacant?
  • Why hasn’t it been rented out for the last few years?
  • What is the potential rent Council could have been generating?
  • How frequently did Council conduct inspections? Clearly long enough for a branch to grow through the roof.
  • If Council is unable to manage these properties effectively, then should we not put these properties into the hands of local real estate agents to manage for the ratepayers and ensure a return on investment?
  • Where is the report quantifying the damage and potential repairs to the house?
  • Where is the business plan for this house, ongoing?

At last month’s Council meeting, which I was prevented from attending via Zoom, the rest of the Councillors voted unanimously to seek expressions of interest for the property. I am not privy to the discussion which occurred in that closed session, but my position is, Councillors should be provided with a report detailing the cost of repairs, and options for local real estate agents managing the property, before making a decision to sell it. And I would be again demanding to know how this happened.

There are other small pockets of land Council is now selling. Not to mention trying to sell the Early Learning Centre, not leasing the land, but selling it. In my opinion, Council are selling off assets to recoup the losses occurring on their pet pointless projects. But it is not a sustainable strategy to sell off everything, as they try and apply a band-aid to those other ventures haemorrhaging money.

In my opinion, the mismanagement of the house in Surman Street represents so much across this Shire. They have not put the time into managing the property, and it has fallen into a state of disrepair. The Merriwa Willow Tree Road is still impassible.

But they continue to pursue ventures, such as becoming a liquor licensee, which is not the core business of Council, instead of taking care of existing ratepayer assets. But who will take responsibility for the house becoming this way?

Are you ok with seeing your investment property in this state? Does any reasonable person think Council has done a good job in managing this property?

Kind Regards,

Cr Elizabeth Flaherty

All of the above are my perspectives, opinions and beliefs as a Councillor on the Upper Hunter Shire Council, are my own, which may not (in fact probably don’t) reflect Council’s position, but which as an elected representative I am supported in law to freely express.

Photos taken at the property last year:

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