Councillor profiles - Local Government Focus
Mayor Rachel Powning, City of Port Phillip, VictoriaMy initial introduction to local government was as an employee at Moreland City Council, not long after the council amalgamations under the Kennett state government. My experience working for the ĎRepublic of Morelandí gave me a real passion for local democracy.
I was first elected to the City of Port Phillip Council in 2008 and was Deputy Mayor from 2008 to 2009. I was elected to Mayor for 2010 to 2012 and since then I have worked in the role full time ó being Mayor is not just a job, itís a lifestyle!
Favourite parts of Port Phillip
Port Phillip has so many great features itís hard to choose between them. There are the beautiful beaches, of course, and the many exciting arts scenes. One of my favourite places is Balaclava, because of its edgy urban feeling and its great mix of cultures, demographics and age groups.
Challenges for a sustainable future
There are many, many challenges facing Port Phillip, with one of the most crucial being land use planning for areas like Fishermanís Bend, St Kilda Road, Port Melbourne and Balaclava. We also need to find workable solutions for the St Kilda Triangle, and for the St Kilda Festival.
We then have the ever-present problem of a high demand for childcare Ė itís just not good enough that in a country like Australia parents are waiting two years for a place in childcare. Our Council has put a lot of money into childcare, and we really need the other levels of government to do a lot more.
One of my key interests is the area of climate change and the critically important role for local government to play. Thereís a lot we can do at the level of council to prepare our communities, encourage more mitigation, and pick up where other levels of government should be doing more and taking action with a greater sense of urgency.
Personal & collective achievements
There are so many things we have achieved in this term of Council that it would be impossible to list some here without minimising others. Perhaps our greatest achievement has been restoring the communityís faith in Port Phillipís high standards of good governance.
I find that the role of Mayor is very demanding, but it is also absolutely fulfilling in so many ways. Perhaps the most difficult part of the role is effectively leading the six other councillors, and encouraging us all to work together despite a great variety of views.
The Mayor does not actually have any additional authority, so the role is a true test of oneís ability to lead by example. Iím not saying Iíve got it right all the time, but I feel proud of the way our councillors have worked well together for the benefit of our community.
I think it would be great if more people were willing to put up their hand and have a go if theyíre of the view that things should be done differently. Being involved in local government doesnít have to be a career, nor does it have to be forever.
What I have learned over my time on Council is that, if each of us plays our small part then we can indeed change the world. I would especially encourage women to get involved in local government, as we need to ensure that the gender balance is better.
Fundamentally, local government is a very important level of government, and we need quality people to stand for elections and lead our communities.
Mayor Bob Merriman, Borough of Queenscliffe, VictoriaI have been a Councillor for the Borough of Queenscliffe for four years and Iíve been fortunate to be the Mayor throughout that time. The Borough has many distinctive features, including its heritage buildings and surrounds, its museums, its spectacular beaches, its historic buildings and the relaxed pace of life.
I first decided to stand for Council because I was completely dissatisfied with a number of things that were occurring in the Borough, such as the rate increases, the debt, the lack of consultation and the persecution of a particular sporting club.
A wealth of experience
Although I am now retired, my working experience as a conciliator and arbitrator for the [then] Industrial Relations Commission assists me greatly in my role as Mayor, particularly in terms of negotiating and working with councillors, management and the community.
Similarly, my terms as Chairman of Cricket Australia, Cricket Victoria, the Building Industry Consultative Committee, the Building Industry Disputes Panel, the Electrical Contractors Disputes Board, my time as a Trustee of the Melbourne Cricket ground, and my involvement with the Bradman Foundation and the Geelong Cats Sports Foundation have all stood me in good stead for the challenges we face on Council.
Issues of importance
Some of the specific issues facing the Borough of Queenscliffe are the ageing population, the condition of our coastline, our total dependence on a tourist economy, and our property values.
As such, those issues that are of highest priority for me are the maintenance of a minimum rate increase policy (over the last two years we have maintained the lowest rate increase in Victoria), good management of our assets, the viability of our commercial businesses and accommodation, and the provision of services and support for our volunteers across all our community clubs and sporting bodies.
Achievements of note
Councilís greatest achievement, and challenge, over the last four years has been to maintain the Boroughís financial viability. We are now the second highest most viable local government area in the State, which is a major success, given our low rate increases, the reduction of our debt by over 30 percent, and the financing of our asset renewal program.
As part of this renewal program we have established new mooring grounds for those local boat owners unable to afford the new harbour charges. We have also successfully negotiated and obtained the management rights to two iconic headlands ó the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse precinct and the Queenscliff Lighthouse Shortlands Bluff precinct. And we have planted over 30,000 trees and improved our gardens and paths in our highly acclaimed parks.
My ambition is to see the Borough of Queenscliffe sustain its strong financial position while continuing to conserve its heritage and uniqueness. I would also like to maintain our high level of community satisfaction, as was recorded in the recent independent government survey of local government areas, therefore preserving the quality of life that is currently enjoyed by residents of the Borough.