Councillor profiles

A regular feature, this edition profiling two elected members from Victoria.

Mayor Marilyn Baker, City of Playford, South Australia

Q. Can you tell us about yourself and how you first got involved in Local Government?

I first became interested in Local Government when attempting to attract local facilities to developing suburbs within our City. It became apparent to me at the time that Local Government had a serious gender and age imbalance and needed the opinions of a wider scope of community to develop programs with a broader focus to address the community demographics. I was first elected to the City of Elizabeth in September 1981, as Councillor for the Park and Downs Ward. Subsequently, I filled the positions of Alderman, Deputy Mayor and Mayor in 1995. I am married to Gary and have two children, Sarah and Stephen. I am a long term supporter of the Playford area and have resided here since 1957.

Q. Describe your Council and community – what are some of its unique features?

With the creation of the City of Playford in May 1997 as a result of the amalgamation of the Cities of Elizabeth and Munno Para, I became the inaugural Mayor for the new City. Again in May 2000, the community continued to show support for me as they elected me into the Mayoral position until the next elections in 2003. I have been instrumental in bringing together two similar but yet vastly different communities. Playford Council is a very diverse City with three distinct areas, including the Hills Face Zones with hobby farms and small townships, a dense urban corridor through the centre and a very large area of broadacre horticultural and viticultural rural farming. A large area of public housing surrounded by new developing suburbs in partnership with major private developers continues to expand.

Q. What are some of the Local Government issues that are of importance to you?

Issues of importance to Playford are those of economic development to encourage sustainable industry into our City, to provide employment opportunities for our residents. Redevelopment of our public housing areas is vital for the regeneration of our City. Improving education opportunities through programs involving schools, TAFE, universities and local industry to tailor education pathways for our youth is also important.

Q. What have been some of your achievements throughout your Local Government career?

One of the most rewarding things about Local Government is the ability, on a daily basis, to meet people of all walks of life and be able to relate to them on an individual basis. The City of Playford enjoys one of the most multicultural societies following migration from the early days of settlement to today. The City is home to people from over 30 different cultural backgrounds. Residents share Italian, Greek and Vietnamese heritages, with the majority of our residents originating from the United Kingdom.

Q. What are some of the challenges you have faced while in Local Government?

Local Government is in itself a challenge as we allocate our limited resources to provide the services and programs our residents feel appropriate. At the same time we are a creature of the other two levels of Government and dependent to a large degree on funding decisions made by them with little or no consultation.

Q. Following amalgamations, the City of Playford became a combination of rural as well as outer suburban communities. How has it managed environmental management and economic development in terms of striking a balance between the two?

The City of Playford has made enormous strides forward since amalgamation in 1997. Our great achievement is moulding a new entity from a disparate group of townships, suburbs and farming areas, into a cohesive, economically viable City, proud of its roots and excited about its future.

Q. How has the City of Playford progressed since amalgamations – being one of the first to amalgamate in South Australia?

Playford is not a wealthy City in Local Government terms, but has undoubtedly become a benchmark in its ability to provide for its residents and ratepayers in a most equitable manner. With the redevelopment of our Regional Centre by the Gandell Group of Companies and Council’s own investment through the building of a new Civic and Cultural Centre, now well and truly underway, Playford is certainly the place to be in the North.

Q. What is your advice for those wishing to enter into Local Government?

I encourage those with a community focus to enter Local Government. I believe it is the sphere of Government where individuals can certainly make a difference. We need to assist young people to enable them to get involved with their local communities and their local Council. A major proportion of our population is the young families moving into affordable housing in our City, and they need to drive the Playford agenda. Local Government is a great challenge but it also offers great rewards to anyone with a real commitment to their community.

Mayor Janice Kelly, Kangaroo Island Council, South Australia

Q. Can you tell us about yourself and how you first got involved in Local Government?

My first introduction to Kangaroo Island was when I was appointed as a teacher to the Area School in Kingscote. It did not take too long for me to develop a great love for the island, its natural beauty and its people. Like many young teachers in those days I married a farmer, Bryan, and we still live on the family farm. I was first elected to the Kingscote Council as a result of a by election in 1984, and at that time I was the only female Councillor. In 1991, I was elected Mayor and served in that capacity until December 1996 when I became the Mayor of the amalgamated Kangaroo Island Council. I have been involved in Local Government for almost 18 years.

Q. Describe your Council and community – what are some of its unique features?

Kangaroo Island Council is, as the name suggests, an island, approximately 155 kilometres long and 55 kilometres wide. It covers an area of 4,500 square kilometres. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty. With 38 per cent of the Island being retained in its natural bushland state, the Island still possesses rich and diverse flora and fauna, many species of which are found nowhere else. There are no rabbits or foxes, so there is an abundance of wildlife. We are a small rural based community of 4,400 people with Kingscote being the major centre. There are a number of small settlements around the coast which include a mixture of both permanent and off Island residents. Parndana is located inland and is the service centre for the farming community. Penneshaw, as our principal port, receives over 150,000 tourists per annum.

Q. What is it like being part of an island community?

Living on Kangaroo Island gives one a great sense of identity. While recognising the disadvantages that come with isolation, this is more than offset by living in an environment that is unique in its natural attractions and also has a strong community involvement that helps make the Island a safe place to live and raise a family.

Q. What are some of the initiatives that your Council has done or is doing to attract tourism or potential residents to the Island?

Like Councils throughout the State we support our local Tourism Kangaroo Island body with funds. We also provide, with the assistance of the State Government, the infrastructure needs of tourism. Since 1995, along with key agencies involved on the Island, we have developed the Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM), which is a tool for measuring and managing the impacts of tourism on the Island. TOMM involves input from residents as well as tourists and it is vital to Kangaroo Island to help ensure a sustainable future. Presentations of TOMM have been given at eco conferences held in Brazil and Japan, as well as being presented at similar conferences throughout Australia.

Q. What are some of the local issues (apart from attracting tourism) that your Council and community are facing.

The biggest imposition of living on the Island is the cost of freight and travel to and from the mainland. Council is constantly working for the Community to gain the removal of Government charges, which are imposed on the sea travel across Backstairs Passage (some 16 kilometres). As there is no public transport, Islanders who receive Social Security benefits are unable to access concessions for travel. Council faces the ongoing issue of a low rate base which is expected to meet local needs as well as those of the tourists. As only three of our townships have reticulated water supplies there is an ongoing demand to have such a system for the five remaining towns. The installation of STEDS (Septic Tank Effluent Disposal Schemes) for all communities is another major issue. Power is a constant problem, as the present system which comes from the mainland is unreliable and beyond the cost of most developers when extensions to the system are needed.

Q. What have been some of your achievements throughout your Local Government career?

Probably the most significant achievements include the following.

  • The amalgamation of the previous Dudley and Kingscote Councils to form the Kangaroo Island Council
  • The withdrawal of the three Island ports from the State Government sale of all State ports
  • Attracting funding for sealing the South Coast Road and the West End Highway
  • Being part of a successful campaign to have the Government set up a special infrastructure fund for Kangaroo Island
  • Attracting $10 million of tourism funds to improve the road network on the Island
  • Having Kangaroo Island recognised as the first official European settlement in South Australia, some five months before Glenelg
  • In 1999 Kingscote Airport was presented with the Annual Award for Aviation Excellence as a Rural Airport, an Australia wide award