Councillor profiles – Mayor Janet Pearce, Macedon Ranges
This year the Victorian Government passed The Distinctive Areas and Landscapes Bill which is landmark legislation to strengthen planning controls and protect the Macedon Ranges region.
Our natural environment, biodiversity, landscapes, agricultural land, food, wine regions and distinct towns are so valuable. I enjoy the diversity in landscape as you move through the shire. Hanging Rock and the walks around the Mount Macedon area are a favourite. The individual towns each have their own character and charm.
Strength in community
I have been an active volunteer locally since my family moved to the shire 18 years ago, including being Chairperson of the Woodend Neighbourhood House for many years. Graduating from the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program sparked my interest in local government and I was elected to council in 2016.
I realised early on that resilient and supported communities and volunteers can achieve amazing things. They are the strength of our community, and the relationship between them and Council is vital.
My work as a Registered Nurse and Midwife over the last 35 years drives my passion for social justice and I have a strong belief in the importance of mental, social and physical health of communities. When time allows, I continue to work locally as a nurse and midwife and find that hugely rewarding. I have also worked in Indigenous heath and for Médecins Sans Frontières in Rwanda and Tanzania.
Some years ago my husband set up his GP Practice in partnership with others, and we experienced first hand the process of purchasing land, permit applications, building and starting a small business from scratch. Working locally and employing local people has allowed me to understand the challenges and rewards of small business.
It all helps you relate to your community.
Looking for balance
Ensuring protection of our environment and finding a balance with growth, tourism and economic development is challenging but also offers great opportunity. We need to continue to ensure the community’s core principles of liveability, efficiency and sustainability as detailed in our current Council Plan underpin everything we do.
We recently employed 12 local youth as co-designers to develop our Youth Strategy. They were mentored along the way and it was such a success we have continued to employ them to ensure we are hearing the views of youth in all our consultations and planning.
Council is also actively working to build partnerships and projects in the region with other local government to improve resource recovery and reduce carbon emissions to zero, which is a priority.
We are expanding the range of consultation methods we use to engage with our community customers and we are working on ‘closing the loop’ and reporting back to the community more effectively.
We have been able to work with the Traditional Owners, a community reference group, councillors, staff, the wider community, and the Victorian Government on a Strategic Plan for the iconic Hanging Rock precinct, which will secure its future for the next 50 years.
Council was an award winner at the 2018 Vic Health Awards for our Live4Life program which began some years ago and it is part of the curriculum in all of our Secondary Schools. It helps support, improve and invest in young peoples mental health. It has since become incorporated and the model is now being introduced in other shires in Victoria.
Going to community events, listening to people’s stories and involving people in consultations. I enjoy seeing programs and events that our community are passionate about actually come to fruition.
I am fortunate to be part of a diverse and talented councillor team. We work together with a skilled, experienced and professional chief executive officer, and with knowledgeable and helpful staff, and in partnership with our active and engaged community.
I continue to learn from them all every day and it is extremely fulfilling work.
I don’t enjoy
We do have challenges, one of them is ensuring all community members feel their voice is important and that we are listening and governing in the best interests of the whole community. There are diverse views and opinions in the community and we have to accept that not everyone will necessarily be satisfied with decisions of Council.
It is also disappointing not being able to fund and support many worthwhile projects, events and groups due to budget constraints.
Long term plans
Council is also committed to improving connectivity within the shire, from walking and cycling trails to better public transport links and telecommunications. It is also important we frequently stop and reflect and look at our governance and due diligence, and whether we are providing ratepayers, local businesses and residents with value and service, and continue to review and ensure our processes are transparent and inclusive and reflect our long term principles and vision.
I am sure l will continue to be involved with health and NFP Boards after my time in Council is finished...whenever that may be.