Councillor profiles - Grant Henley Mayor City of Busselton
Located in the picturesque southwest corner of Western Australia, City of Busselton is a high profile regional City with an increasingly diverse economy and a rich pioneering history. It’s home to the Wadandi Bibulmum proud traditional custodians of the land.
The largest Local Government area outside the Perth metropolitan/Peel area, we have seen sustained growth of 3-4 percent over the last decade.
Busselton (population around 25,000) is the main service town and seat of the City’s new Civic Administration Building. Dunsborough has 8000 residents increasing more than threefold during the tourist season. Yallingup, Eagle Bay and Carbunup are mostly seasonal residential communities and Vasse, a once small settlement, has seen significant growth over the past five years.
It has 1400sq km of rural residential, agriculture, viticulture and dairy properties and is home to many world class wineries, boutique breweries and has a bourgeoning artisan culture.
Balancing the needs of all these different communities is a key Council responsibility.
Our place, our people
Bordered by the Indian and Southern Ocean we have some of the most beautiful coastline in Australia – protected bays, world class surf beaches and rugged rocky shorelines. The iconic 1.8 km Busselton Jetty provides a centrepiece for the newly upgraded Busselton Foreshore. Around 20 major cruise liners visit Busselton each year, bringing thousands of tourists to the region. Recognised as TripAdvisor’s Hottest Destination Asia Pacific 2019, the City of Busselton is a well-known ‘must do’ location.
I could speak at length about our beautiful scenery, our healthy outdoor lifestyle or our unique flora and fauna, but what makes this place really special is the people. They’re proud of this region and protective of the lifestyle it affords – they’re also deeply invested in Council business.
Balancing growth and lifestyle
Busselton is a city on the move. We went from a Shire to a City in January 2012 and the pace from there in has been non-stop.
A little under a decade ago the City of Busselton ambitiously pegged itself as the Events Capital of WA. It was a bold ambition, but I’m pleased to say that it’s really paid off. We’ve created a diverse events calendar that draws visitors from across the globe and injects millions of dollars into the local economy each year.
Another key Council project that will boost the tourist economy and expand freight opportunities for local producers is the expansion of the Busselton Margaret River Airport. We can now accommodate the arrival of large passenger aircraft from the Eastern States, and in time, nearby Asian destinations.
I’m particularly proud to have been part of the airport upgrade team. To be able to deliver a direct conduit for interstate and potential international tourism has been a game changer for our region.
However, I’m also very proud of the development of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). This is something that I feel quite passionate about. This process began in 2016 and has involved consulting with the local Aboriginal people in numerous different ways. The information collected has greatly assisted in drafting our RAP plan which is now out for broader public consultation. While there is still a lot of work to do in this space genuine reconciliation is something this council is very committed to.
Being as good a mayor as I possibly can
My Local Government journey began after a six month caravan journey around Australia which opened my eyes up to a whole gamut of possibilities. I was first elected onto Council in 2009 and in 2013 was voted in as Deputy Mayor. I became Mayor in 2015 and was re-elected in 2017.
One of my main strengths and one that I have worked hard to develop, is the ability to really listen. I respect other people’s opinions but I’m still prepared make difficult decisions when they are backed by expert knowledge, sound research and good governance.
I moved with my family to Busselton following 20 years in the Navy.
I worked in the tourism industry as a boat skipper, dive master, jetty operations manager and guesthouse proprietor. These positions gave me the opportunity to communicate with visitors about what was working and what was lacking from a tourist perspective.
Over the years, I have supported junior and senior sport as a coach, manager, referee or administrator and am an active member of our RSL – these everyday connections with family, friends and community members certainly keep me grounded.
While I love being Mayor of the City of Busselton, it’s not always beer and skittles. The unrealistic expectations of community can be draining. When Council is forced to make a hard call and that impacts on my family, this is also upsetting.
But on the flip side it’s a real honour to serve as Mayor and there are many more highs than lows.
Working as part of a team to establish policy, strategy and budget to determine the direction for your area (and hometown) is very rewarding. From story time at the local library to advocating for regional cities through my role on the Regional Capitals Alliance – it’s a role I absolutely love.