At their ordinary monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 21, Parkes Shire Council voted to support the facilitation of a permanent veterinarian practice in Parkes.
Mayor Neil Westcott has acknowledged there is a real, strong community frustration about not having a veterinarian service, and there is a strong level of support in the community for the service.
Cr Westcott thanked Denise Hando and Marie Cottier for their work raising awareness of the matter in the community and compiling the petition calling for a service.
"I recognise that there is a general vet shortage across Australia which is acutely felt in towns like our own which are outside the large and regional centres," he said.
Cr Westcott noted the NSW Government has begun an inquiry into the veterinary service workforce shortage and was conducting hearings.
He said Council's planning and community services staff are working with some potential vets by attending site visits to existing vacant buildings around Parkes to discuss suitability and requirements, and providing pre-lodgement advice about any building refurbishment and costs.
"This consultation has been positive, but unfortunately to this point today no DA has been lodged with Council to date. The team will continue to respond to these enquiries," he said.
As an incentive, to draw a veterinary practice to town, Cr Westcott said Council could consider the waiving or reducing DA fees and charges under their financial assistance policy to a potential practice.
As an extra incentive to ensure a practice is established, Cr Westcott said an another option could be to refund any Council fees paid, but only after a practice has had an occupancy of 12 months.
In addition the investigation of auxiliary services incorporating subsidised microchipping and de-sexing programs serves to extend services to the clinic as well as support Council's role in responsible pet ownership, Cr Westcott said.
Council would also consider sending a delegation to the Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty to pitch for funding to support the program and to attract and retain vet services in regional NSW, Cr Westcott said.
Councillor Ken McGrath said people are frustrated as no one really knows exactly what is going on and Parkes really needs a vet.
"A lot of these animals are like children to these people. And by not having a vet here it means we lose animals," Cr McGrath said.
Cr McGrath said they also need to know if Council could come up with some sort of idea for a building for a vet to come here.
"I think if Council could provide some sort of building, and whether we look at buildings that we own or if we have something that's suitable or whatever, you know maybe a shop in the main street or something that is what we have to have," Cr McGrath said.
"And whether we can buy something and rent back to these people with a lease back thing, however, I don't know.
"It just seems to me that no one knows what's is going on. Everyone is frustrated because there's all of these different stories going around."
Parkes Shire Council's General Manager Kent Boyd said council have been approached by vets before, but Council staff have to keep things confidential if businesses come to Council, unless asked not to, or it becomes public knowledge
Mr Boyd said even if Council have identified a building, it may not be what a veterinary clinic is looking for.
Brendan Hayes, Council's Director of Planning and Community Services said as recently as two weeks ago Council had spoken to a vet to provide pre-lodgement advice and they do take confidentially very seriously.
Mr Hayes said when dealing with private and public matters, staff are restricted to maintain (information) in house until it becomes public knowledge or a DA is lodged.
Cr McGrath said if he was an entrepreneur in veterinary science and saw a thousand names on a petition (like the one submitted) it would indicate a vacuum or an opportunity.
Cr McGrath said as a community there is not much more people can do after putting down a thousand signatures stating you would support a vet if they came to Parkes.
Cr Bill Jayet said he fully supports the recommendation and congratulates the community in their efforts to get a vet to Parkes.
However, he did ask if Council are setting a precedent in waiving DA fees.
Council's GM, Mr Boyd said said they are setting a precedent in some ways, but added not many businesses are coming to Council with a thousand signatures of community support.
"I'm sure other businesses will ask us to waive fees and all sorts of things, but I think it's hard to argue that the community is not behind this," he said.
"It will be advertised the same way we give money to anyone else; we advertise it, the community have a chance to say 'we don't agree with it' but otherwise I think we say this is specifically for the attraction of a veterinary surgeon to Parkes."
Cr Ken Keith said in terms of our medical workforce, these higher level medicos are really important services to our community and that it is important to put these sorts of incentives in place.
Cr McGrath said he thinks their best practise would be to find a venue for the vet that would be suitable, rather than waive DA fees.