Councillor profiles - Mayor Mark Eckel Mildura Rural City Council

Article image - Councillor profiles - Mayor Mark Eckel Mildura Rural City Council

My father was a naval officer and we lived in most ports around Australia, however visiting my grandparents in Mildura every year and having one year of schooling here in the early 1960s, I lived with the dream to eventually settle in Mildura.

From an early age, the unique streetscape of Mildura and the connection to being the first irrigation colony in Australia captured my imagination.

Always passionate about history, the mystique around the city’s founders George and William Benjamin (WB) Chaffey and their connection to Australia’s second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, after whom our main thoroughfare is named, always held a fascination.
There is so much to love about Mildura and its diverse multicultural community at around 75 nationalities and growing every year.
This vibrant community attracts visitors from all over Australia and the world to its many annual festivals. They include the Mildura Country Music Festival, Mildura Wentworth Arts Festival, Murray River International Music Festival, Mildura Writers Festival, Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, and the Easter Power Sports to name a few.

A proud moment
In my fifth term on Council, I remain committed to consulting with the region’s residents, local businesses and industries, working to make Mildura a better place to live now and into the future.

I am a White Ribbon Ambassador. One of my proudest moments as a councillor was when Mildura Rural City Council officially became a White Ribbon Accredited Workplace on 31 March 2016, pledging to help stop violence against women
in our community.

By joining the initiative, we are taking active steps to prevent and respond to violence against women - whether it occurs in or beyond the workplace.

Whilst I acknowledge that as a councillor whatever you accomplish, it must be a team effort, it took me three council terms to get CCTV introduced into the Mildura Central Business District.
It wasn’t an easy issue with many council debates, but something I’m proud of.

Changing economies
Mildura, as with other regional centres, is experiencing a prolonged period of economic transition.

Horticulture, agriculture and manufacturing are undergoing a significant adjustment period, contributing to high levels of economic and social disadvantage and poor levels of regional growth relative to the Victorian average.

Our region must work quickly to diversify its economy and develop a strong and sustainable resilience to the peaks and troughs of the region’s primary industries if we are to maintain our substantial $2.7 billion contribution to Australia’s annual GDP.

High on my list of key challenges is the fact that Mildura remains the largest regional centre in Victoria without a passenger train service.

Arrest the social decline
Council’s key priority now, aimed at arresting our poor social indicators into the future, is the Mildura Future Ready (MFR) funding and advocacy strategy.

This strategy aims to address Sunraysia’s disturbing levels of social disadvantage by attracting large-scale government funding for four key initiatives:

  •  Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct
  • Mildura Motorsports and Community Precinct (Stage 1)
  • Stage 2 of the Mildura Riverfront Redevelopment
  • Advocate for return of the passenger rail service

Together, the MFR suite of initiatives would address the core drivers behind Mildura’s social disadvantage – low income levels, lack of jobs growth and high unemployment – which in turn will have a transformative impact on our region.

Key to achieving these goals is securing funding, and the Federal Government’s Regional Growth Fund has come at an ideal time for us.  

At present we have two MFR initiatives well advanced, with completed plans and business cases for the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct and the first stage of the Mildura Motorsports and Community Precinct.

Both projects have strong support from the local community as well as industry experts, and according to the broad criteria announced by the Federal Government earlier this year, also appear to be promising prospects for a share of the Building Better Regions Fund.
I have never hesitated in standing for election and have been honoured to share the responsibility of being part of the decision-making process of shaping the future of this municipality.

To then become Mayor wasn’t a dream I honestly ever contemplated, but am deeply honoured.

I am so appreciative of my fellow councillors for giving me the honour of being Mayor and to serve this wonderful community.