Councillor profiles - Judith Hannan Mayor of Wollondilly Shire Council, New South Wales
The Shire is blessed with enormous environmental and cultural assets. It is located on the south-western outskirts of Sydney at the foothills of the Southern Highlands and is surrounded by spectacular natural beauty and rural pastures.
The area covers 2560 square kilometres, stretching from Yanderra in the South, Appin and Menangle in the East, Warragamba in the North, and the Nattai wilderness, Yerranderie and Burragorang Valley to the West.
The Shire’s agricultural landscapes and its proximity to Sydney holds great potential to harness and encourage investment in a range of experiences and facilities related to agri-tourism, eco-tourism, adventure tourism, bushwalking, cycling, day visitation, events and festivals.
But the people of the Shire are by far our best asset – they are always welcoming and friendly. I love taking visitors on a journey from the Burragorang Valley lookout to The Oaks Heritage Centre where you can sit in a schoolroom of days gone by and see stories of the flooding of the valley to supply Sydney with water.
Wherever you go someone will give you a smile and will likely stop for a chat.
The skill of mediation
I have been privileged to be on Council for 12 years, and love helping our community plan for the future. As we are a peri-urban Council under continual challenge of urbanisation marching in our direction, we need to have strategies to retain our rural outlook.
I also work as an optometrist and as a mediator. As an optometrist one of the most important things is listening and taking a sound history and this helps to remind me when making a decision in Council to get the whole story. Mediation is one of the most helpful skills in my role as a Councillor. Often there are opposing views to deal with and enabling the opponents to work out a solution or compromise together rather than Council declaring a prescription often delivers much happier residents.
Outside of work hours I love travelling to all parts of the world and undertaking extraordinary adventures like snorkelling between tectonic plates and zip lining over old slate mines. I have just returned from dog sledding. I am always considering how the tourism ideas I see and enjoy could be used in our Wollondilly Shire.
Wollondilly Shire has a vast geographical area and the census shows that 58.4 per cent of working residents travel outside of the Shire to work, with 73 per cent travelling by car. This is significantly higher than the Greater Sydney average. When reviewing this data the two key challenges faced by the Council and I are improving roads and public transport.
Council has approximately 800kms of road, and reconstructing a road costs approximately $1million per 1km. Therefore maintaining and reconstructing roads is a long term project and Council has engaged with residents and in response to their feedback will significantly invest in the maintenance and improvement of Wollondilly’s roads and infrastructure. We are committed to continuing to improve our roads and have a maintenance schedule designed to preserve and improve our roads.
There are limited public transport services in the mornings and evenings, as well as on weekends in Wollondilly. Add to this the fact that we only have a diesel service, and not an electric service like the rest of the Greater Sydney area, so we have a different train timetable and we have less frequent services compared to the rest of Sydney.
Protecting agricultural atmosphere
There is no one specific success I have had but rather many varied small accomplishments and none of them without the help of others. A couple of examples of this are: a referendum in the last election to have a popularly elected Mayor and a few years ago we enabled the men’s shed movement to be developed across the Shire
The best part of being a Councillor is meeting the many wonderful people in the area where I live and listening to their points of view and ideas about how they want our area to look in the future.
The worst part of being a Councillor is the lack of resourcing of local government. While we all know we have to use our community’s money carefully with state government impositions and lack of assistance there is never enough to deliver all that the community want.
I hope for two things for the future: At the moment we are developing strategies to deliver a town on a greenfield site for 50,000 residents at Wilton. I hope that we can have the necessary infrastructure in place to make it a sustainable, technology-based, environmentally friendly place that people love to live and work in. At the same time I would love to protect our agriculture and natural resources and the grand iconic Aussie atmosphere we enjoy in our Shire.