Councillor Profiles

Councillor Alex Coates, City of Salisbury, SA

Q. How long have you been on Council?

I have been an Elected Member with the City of Salisbury for two and a half years. I was elected in 2006 at my second tilt for Council. I currently chair the Works and Services Standing Committee and the Sport and Recreation Sub Committee.

Q. What interests you about Local Government?

I became involved in Local Government to represent and work with the community. I was already a volunteer with St John Ambulance Australia and saw that my community needed a strong representative to ensure that it continued to be represented at Council. I had previously been involved in the YMCA Youth Parliament program, which gave me public speaking and debating skills, as well as experience with committee work.

Q. Tell us about your Local Government area?

The City of Salisbury is a rapidly growing Local Government area north of Adelaide. The City currently has a population of 120,000 people making it the second largest city in South Australia. Salisbury is an area of contrast, from socio economically challenged suburbs, through to high end apartment living. We have a large youth population and an ever increasing aging population, which is a challenge for Council. Salisbury’s main industries are manufacturing, defence and the service industry. My ward houses the RAAF Edinburgh air base, which is a major training base for the armed forces.

Q. What makes your council area special?

Salisbury is recognised worldwide for its wetlands and water harvesting. Council made a decision more than 20 years ago to develop a series of wetlands. We now collect rainwater, clean the water through a series of wetlands and then draw the water back to the surface as required to water our reserves and school ovals, and to supply houses and business. The water is suitable for drinking but is not currently used for drinking.

Q. Your Council is currently doing much work to establish affordable housing. Can you tell us about this and why it is important?

Salisbury is again leading the way by entering into a project of affordable housing for first home buyers and for people downsizing from large properties. The project will initially see the construction of 11 properties. Council will take up to 30 per cent off the value of the house and land as an equity mortgage. This 30 per cent equity mortgage, financed by Council, is paid out when the property is sold, or the owner can pay out at any time. The initial project is open to residents of Salisbury who are first homebuyers with a household income of less than $59,000. This is very important for several reasons. It first provides affordable housing for young families who are struggling to find affordable properties, and it also provides construction jobs during the current financial downturn.

Q. What has been your greatest achievement on Council?

Council has achieved many things during my time, some of which were election promises of mine. Council has opened a highly successful youth enterprise centre that the community lobbied for for ten years, a hard waste collection service for all residents and community groups has been introduced, and we have a balanced operating budget for the first time in many years. A great achievement was the installation of an acoustic barrier between a residential and industrial part of my ward.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I hope to be re-elected in late 2010, and hope to become Deputy Mayor during my time on Council. For the community, I hope to accomplish the introduction of a community transport service and the upgrading of sporting clubs across Salisbury.

Mayor Peter Hunt, Berri Barmera Council, SA

Q. How long have you been on Council?

I was first elected as a Loveday Ward Councillor for the District Council of Barmera back in 1987 and continued on until 1993, when I did not seek re-election. However, as I had enjoyed my previous years experience in Local Government, in 2000 I decided to stand for the amalgamated Berri Barmera Council and was fortunately elected. I became Mayor in 2006.

Q. Why did you become involved?

I didn’t believe the ratepayers of our area were hearing enough or knew enough of what Council was doing, and consequently, I wanted to do something about it. Within less than two years, the District Council of Barmera went on to win an award for its publication of a well illustrated newsletter that was sent out periodically to the community.

Q. Tell us about your Local Government area?

Berri Barmera Council was formed in 1996 with the amalgamation of the District Council of Barmera and the District Council of Berri. It also comprises the smaller townships of Cobdogla, Glossop, Loveday, Monash, Overland Corner and Winkie. In total we have an area of some 508 square kilometres and have a population of approximately 11,500 people.

The Murray River runs through the town of Berri and we have the magnificent Lake Bonney in Barmera. Our main industries are associated with irrigated viticulture and horticulture. Many of the locals enjoy recreation based around sport and the use of the Murray River and Lake Bonney.

Our Council area is a part of the Riverland Region of South Australia and enjoys good relations with the adjoining District Council of Loxton Waikerie and Renmark Paringa Council.

Q. What key challenges are currently facing rural councils?

The lack of water would be foremost the biggest challenge for all of our communities at the present time. Other challenges would be the ability to continue to raise revenue, the ability to maintain assets, and at the same time build new ones, and most importantly, the challenge to stay ‘viable and sustainable’.

Q. What is the most difficult part of being a Mayor?

Due to community expectations and the role of Mayor changing considerably over the past few years, I find the pressure to attend the various meetings and functions, and representing the community on various external bodies can be testing on family and business commitments at times. The need to fit into the plans of the State Government, the budget cycles of Council and the bureaucracy that it takes at times to start or complete projects can be frustrating as well. Predominately however, one of the main issues for any Elected Member is pleasing all the community, and we all know that’s impossible.

Q. What lasting impression do you hope to have on your community?

At the end of the day, I hope that my community would think of me as an honest and genuine person and one that has always had his heart in its community and has listened to its community. During my period, when you consider that we have witnessed the worst drought on record and the economy has been at its lowest for some time, I would also like to think that they would recognise that I and my fellow Elected Members were still willing to ensure the community progressed.