Councillor profiles - John Daw President Mundaring Shire Council
Simple and sustainable living
I love living in The Perth Hills and enjoy the simple things in life: bush walking and swimming at Lake Leschenaultia. My wife and I have raised a family of three, now-adult children and pursued a sustainable lifestyle for the past 19 years.
Building our home has been a family and friends project, using recycled materials. Our small hobby farm is alive with house cow, chickens and organically grown fruit and veggies. Our current project is building a wine and vegetable cellar.
New blood renews vigour
I have been on the Shire of Mundaring Council for more than 14 years and was elected Shire President in October 2017. I have given up my previous work to focus fully on my role and responsibilities as Shire President.
Council has had nine newly elected members out of 12 over the last two election cycles. This has brought new vigour to Council and proves that our ratepayers take a keen interest in Council matters. I was delighted when a 19year-old was elected to Council last October.
A larger number of Councillors is likely to deliver a larger “brains trust” and Council has so far resisted a reduction in our numbers. Democracy thrives with more, rather than less, able-minded representation!
Residents and ratepayers are very politically aware nowadays and use social and conventional media to constantly scrutinise the business of Council. Sections of our community know how to mobilise and vocalise and demand certain outcomes, especially those they see tied to financial sustainability. Our Council works hard to encourage community input and to balance the disparate voices with wider evidence of community expectations. This is a real and ongoing challenge.
Positive change reflecting local values
The best part about being a councillor is the ability to affect positive change for the district and have a ‘finger on the pulse’ of local public life. Sometimes positive change can mean getting out of the developer-driven or “urban” mindset.
Our Local Planning Scheme, for example, offers protections to local natural areas and biodiversity. Our planners are constantly challenged with balancing bush fire protection and retaining natural vegetation. The Shire is succeeding and won a Planning Institute of Australia planning excellence award last year.
We could be a “City” of Mundaring, because we have the population (nearly 40,000), but choose to remain as a “Shire” to reflect our mostly rural values and lifestyle.
People live here to enjoy the rural bushland and to mix in and around our viable and sustainable town sites. Whilst the Shire is close enough to the city of Perth and its buzz, it is also far enough away for sanity!
Council’s key priorities include developing a contemporary overarching environmental policy, a youth policy and a reconciliation program that recognises prior ownership of the land by the local Noongar (Whadjuk) people. Mundaring is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘on a high place’.
The Shire’s area of 644 square kilometres is more than 50 per cent water catchment reserves and state forests with icons such as John Forrest National Park, Mundaring Weir and Lake Leschenaultia.
The Shire takes in an area of the Perth Hills, about 300 metres above sea level and characterised by homes on large and rural blocks. It stretches west and downwards to embrace a band of suburbia, affectionately called The Flatlands.
People move to the Hills for a “tree change” and tend to remain for a long time. The Shire’s “flatlands” are prized for easy access to public transport west into Perth and for a five minute drive east up to bushland.
The Shire’s 23 town sites, villages and localities mainly grew along railway lines, which are long-since closed. Thus there is a significant rail history to the area. The key challenges for the Shire are providing services to these locations, many of which have or desire their own sporting facilities and community halls.
A further constraint to development is a lack of sewerage. Many of the Shire’s Hills households use a septic system and it is unlikely this will change in the near future.
Like many ‘tree change’ areas in Australia, the Shire is a magnet for artistic people. Council is very supportive of the arts, especially through the community-run Mundaring Arts Centre and the Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre.
Connection with community
Volunteering is strong and growing with almost 100 volunteer bush care groups, service clubs and ratepayer associations, and ten volunteer fire brigades. Like many country Councils, our elected members tend to emerge from these community associations. Thus our Council really is connected to its community.
Our two much-loved libraries are multi-use spaces with strong growth in borrowings and attendances.
Mundaring town site is our major commercial and cultural centre and it is largely a dowdy 70s style place. Council has a plan to redevelop and revitalise it, incorporating sustainability practices and multi-generational and multi-use facilities. It is exciting to be a part of something that is planned to create a sense of place for decades to come.
The Shire is still, generally speaking, a safe place to live with a low level of crime. Neighbours know each other and look out for each other.
The biggest threat we faced in recent years was the previous State Government’s failed attempt to amalgamate the Shire of Mundaring and the City of Swan. That was a costly exercise, both emotionally and financially. Fortunately, we remain an independent, stand-alone Shire.