Councillor profiles - Councillor Gordon Houston, Mayor, Chittering Shire, Western Australia
Chittering Shire has the fastest growing population in the Wheatbelt region. It is a peri-urban area with a mix of rural, rural residential and townsite living options, with the southern end of the Shire located just 35 km from Joondalup and 40km from Midland. The area is special because, despite pressure from the metropolitan sprawl, Council has managed (and works hard) to preserve and nurture our traditional economic base of broad acre farming, orchards and smaller rural pursuits. Council wants to build on Chittering’s reputation as a friendly rural locality on the fringe of Perth so we are also creating new opportunities based on population growth, online business and tourism which fit within the rural character of the Shire, to provide a destination which offers something special for both residents and visitors.
Aside from the superb natural environment, my favourite aspect of the Shire is its people. Because we are on the fringe of the city and an easy commute, we have residents with very varied demographic backgrounds. However, we all live here because of the special nature of the place and that rich diversity of people and shared interest in protecting our environment and lifestyle produces some real characters and champions.
This is my first term on Council, and I decided to become involved because I had concerns that the rural feel and natural environment of the Shire was under threat from Perth’s urban sprawl and I have a range of skills which could be of benefit in managing those pressures at a Council level. I also believed that the Shire needed to improve its overall performance and to better communicate with its residents. In addition, my father was a Councillor and then Mayor at the Town of Claremont, so I guess I caught the bug!
I have previously worked within local and state government at senior levels and for the last decade or so, have worked with my wife as an environmental consultant. Aside from that senior level experience in government, I also have significant experience in environment and waste management, planning and development, environmental impact assessment and environmental health and I have a comprehensive understanding of most of the aspects of local government administration and operations.
This knowledge and experience is especially useful in understanding the staff position or perspective on matters brought to Council and my environmental background has been useful in providing a professional perspective in that forum on sensitive environmental matters pertaining to various development proposals.
In terms of family life, I have four children (the younger two are 11 and 4), so most of my leisure time is spent with family at the beach or in the pool, or at bike parks and playgrounds.
Encouraging urban development and rural lifestyle
Within the next three years, the Shire will be connected to Perth by a new four-lane highway (Northlink), making it significantly more accessible. This proximity to Perth and the location of an 1100-hectare industrial site on our southern border in the very near future brings both opportunities and challenges.
Council needs to make provision for this growth and the subsequent expectation of new services and facilities for an increasing population while at the same time retaining the rural character and landscape that attracts our residents and visitors.
Council is in the middle of major infrastructure upgrades in the town of Bindoon. The street is undergoing a $2million facelift, which will transform the commercial heart of the town and the carefully selected plantings associated with the upgrade will result in an all-year display of flowering local native plants for residents and visitors alike.
Council is also working with the State Government to deliver a sewerage scheme for Bindoon by the end of 2018 and a number of other developments such as the recently completed medical centre, a roll-out of NBN services, a new independent living unit development and a new ambulance station (all coming within the next two to three years) will help create a more sustainable and vibrant future for the area.
My hope is that during my term on the current Council, we are able to set in place sustainable policy and strategic direction which protects the nature of our Shire forever, so that it retains its essential character and can become a weekend retreat destination for the populace of Perth and a showcase of how rural lifestyle and urban development can coexist.