Councillor profiles - Local Government Focus
Mayor Sarah Schmerl, Break O’Day Municipal Council, TasmaniaI joined Break O’Day Council in 2009 after my first attempt at an election. I ran in that election because I felt our Municipality was becoming stale and that the Council was seen as an old boys’ club where little was being achieved. The community then elected me as Mayor in October 2011.
Alongside my role as Mayor I have an accommodation business with my husband and his parents. This gives me a good handle on issues such as local employment and tourism.
Break O’Day local government area
My favourite attraction in our region is the iconic Bay of Fires. It’s hard not to be passionate about those glistening red rocks, the crystal clean white sands and tempting clear blue waters. But one of the best features of the area is the diversity of the people who live here and the respect shown for the many differing views.
One of the biggest differences of the Break O’Day area, within Tasmania, is our geographical size when compared to population. Our regular population is around 6500 but this blows out to 12,000+ in summer. Managing the infrastructure and services to meet these seasonal requirements can be quite a challenge at times.
Current challenges & issues
Break O’Day Council is currently facing having to work with the State Government, which is broke and is not able to properly fund departments such as Parks & Wildlife and Forestry.
This means that little or no work is being done in our area, especially in maintaining forestry roads that are used as emergency access routes and as fire trails. We feel that we have been somewhat abandoned by the State.
So, a primary issue for us, at this stage, is ensuring that we have alternative access points during times of flood or fire. We can’t wait until the events are upon us to act — we must be constantly maintaining these defences.
As a small council, we are not able to pick up the short fall in services to the community, which is a huge frustration to Council and ratepayers alike. This is part of the ongoing discussion we have with the State Government.
Projects, plans & priorities
Council has just finalised the tender process for our innovative Municipal Management Plan (MMP). This is a whole series of plans for the region that have been combined, for reasons of economy of scale and in regards to community consultation and general background research costs. The tender has now been awarded to a firm that will work with specialists in their fields. As a result, Council intends to quickly develop several plans to shovel-ready status.
One of my priorities is to forge a strong relationship between the State Government and our federal representatives, to ensure adequate funding comes to us. This is where our MMP will ensure that we have projects that are well researched, planned, costed and ready to go.
While successes have been minor over the last nine months since I became Mayor, I hope to leave my role with a sense of satisfaction of actually completing projects (both big and small) and not just having talked about them. I want to make some real and lasting improvements for the Break O’Day region.
Mayor Doug Chipman, Clarence City Council, TasmaniaI was first elected to Clarence City Council in 2000, so it’s approaching 12 years. I’ve always been interested in community activities, such as school councils, sporting teams, Scouts etc, and I saw local government as another opportunity to be involved when I retired from the Air Force.
Alongside my role as Mayor, I also work as an independent flying instructor and pilot licence-testing officer. Being in the Air Force provided me with outstanding leadership and management experiences at senior levels, as well as a chance to see a lot of good ideas in local government at various locations around Australia and overseas.
The Clarence local government area
Clarence has many beautiful features. Most days I am privileged to start with a walk around Bellerive Bluff, along Bellerive Beach and back, through the outdoor gym in the park, with fresh air and stunning views across the Derwent River to the early morning sun on Mount Wellington.
With numerous sandy beaches, the Meehan Range, seven golf courses, horse trails, the Richmond Village, and lots more, Clarence offers many opportunities for a great lifestyle.
Significantly, Clarence was the site of the first European settlement in Tasmania and we celebrated 150 years as a Council last year. Clarence is also home to the Hobart International Airport, Bellerive Oval, and the beautiful Coal Valley.
Challenges, projects & strategies
Clarence is facing a number of challenges, including population growth, an ageing population and sea-level rise.
Clarence City Council is working in partnership with the local community, and the state and federal governments, to develop long-term strategies to manage sea-level rise in those parts of the city that are threatened. We are also working to improve the amenity of our natural areas, such as Rosny Hill, for both local residents and visitors.
In order to effectively cope with the future challenges facing Clarence, and to implement our policies, Council needs the confidence and trust of other governments as well as of the people who live in Clarence. To achieve this, it is essential that we have a fair, open and accountable approach to all that we do.
Achievements & goals
One of my greatest achievements on Council was being part of the team that faced up to the impact of climate change on our low-lying communities.
Another achievement of note was participating in the successful campaign in 2005, to improve roads and footpaths across the city. The program now has the ongoing support of Council and is resulting in significant long-term improvements.
In terms of personal goals, I would like to see Council establish an iconic city park embracing a modern civic cultural precinct. Such a precinct, positioned next to our central business district, with views over Kangaroo Bay towards Mount Wellington, would provide indoor and outdoor venues for meetings, displays, cultural and artistic events, as well as various recreational activities.
Fundamentally, in my time as Mayor of Clarence City, I’d like to oversee a Council that continues to make good planning decisions, providing opportunities for growth while preserving our great way of life for future generations.