High Achievers - Kieran Chappell General Manager Economic Development, Light Regional Council
Kieran Chappell grew up in the town of Kapunda an hour north of Adelaide – the main centre of Light Regional Council.
After ten years working across the country for engineering consultancies, his return to the Light region to work at Council felt like a homecoming.
Now General Manager Economic Development, in his time at Council he has overseen major projects including the Gawler Water Reuse Scheme, introduced new quality control standards and successfully secured funding.
Inspired by his high-school principal (now Light’s Deputy Mayor), Mr Chappell pursued civil engineering at university and entered the private sector.
“Having a passion for structural design, I managed to obtain employment for national engineering consultancies that enabled me to work in the Northern “Territory and Queensland before returning to South Australia,” he told Local Government Focus.
“I was able to gain design experience on a broad range of projects, but after 10 years became less interested in the technical side of the job.”
It was time for a career change and a shift back to his roots.
“An opportunity to start as a Development Engineer with Light Regional Council coincided with a burgeoning relationship with a local physiotherapist – an opportunity to establish a country lifestyle that could not be ignored.”
Mr Chappell was nominated as a ‘High Achiever’ by Light Mayor Bill O’Brien, who said it was good to have a “local lad” on side.
“I’ve watched Kieran develop over a period of time … It’s pleasing to see a country boy take up these positions and get to the level he has.”
Mayor O’Brien praised Mr Chappell’s “analytical way of going about things and his attention to detail”.
Mr Chappell’s early work at Council involved ushering in new standards and quality control processes around engineering – important in a growing region.
He then moved to the role of Manager Engineering & Assets and now, since this January, General Manager Economic Development.
The Gawler Water Reuse Scheme (GWRS), completed last year, is a large-scale stormwater-harvesting project established to keep pace with the growth near the town of Roseworthy.
Mr Chappell was project manager through concept and feasibility stages and helped secure a $10.7m Commonwealth grant for the $22m project.
The project wasn’t without complications.
“After the development growth at Roseworthy was scaled back, we were able to amend the scheme to service the drought-susceptible western Barossa Valley vineyards by constructing 35km of pipeline and two major dams on time and on budget,” he said.
“Through a public-private partnership, the GWRS has enabled non-rates revenue to underpin investment in a $15m Accelerated Infrastructure Upgrade Program that will be delivered in two years, a feat that would have otherwise taken 30-40 years.”
Mr Chappell said his most memorable moments in local government have been receiving notification on grant funding.
“Regional councils like Light rely so heavily on [grants] to deliver larger projects.
“So much effort goes into the applications and we nearly lost the GWRS grant when our initial private partner fell through, so that was an interesting time.”
Other recent wins include securing nearly $2.2m from the Building Better Regions Fund for a Multi-Purpose Agriculture Centre in Freeling and a $0.5m State Government grant to develop a town square that will transform the Main Street of Kapunda.
Mr Chappell said his engineering background has provided good base knowledge for his new Economic Development role however he’d “like to engage better with local businesses and the State Government to ensure that traditional industries in our region continue to be successful and we are able to activate emerging sectors”.
He said he’d also like to chase a City Deal for the growth areas around Kingsford and Roseworthy.
“I think they’re perfectly positioned and offer public-private partnership opportunities that can fill the employment void that will be left by the nearby Holden’s closure in October 2017.”
Tourism projects are also in the pipeline: “One involves an iconic cycle tour through our region, starting in the Adelaide Hills and connecting all the way through to the Clare Valley.
“There are so many great food, wine, accommodation and other attractions along this path that the business case nearly writes itself – we just need some dedicated infrastructure and good marketing.
“The second project seeks to leverage Sir Sidney Kidman, the Cattle King’s connection to his former country home in Kapunda to create a unique visitor centre/museum experience.
“Kapunda has so much to offer as an untapped heritage tourism destination, being the state’s first mining town.”
Mr Chappell said he also hopes to expand his role outside of Council and is looking to be accepted onto the board of Tourism Barossa Inc.
“Working with Regional Development Australia, Barossa and our neighbouring Councils also provide collaborative opportunities that I intend to learn from, for regional benefit.”