High achiever - Renee O’Connor Sport and Recreation Planner Infrastructure and Operations, Adelaide Hills Council

Article image - High achiever - Renee O’Connor Sport and Recreation Planner Infrastructure and Operations, Adelaide Hills Council

Adelaide Hills Council, South Australia, has recently partnered with local school, Heathfield High, in the planning and delivery of a major upgrade to the school’s facilities that will also create an unrivalled sports and recreation hub in the district.

The development will ultimately include new space for netball, tennis, cricket, AFL, soccer, athletics and more, as well as a community recreation space, and upgrades to courts, change rooms and associated amenities, car parking, and access between the council and school sites.

This is a new approach to sporting infrastructure which includes a more sustainable use of recreational sites and community assets.

Council’s Sport and Recreation Planner – Infrastructure and Operations, Renee O’Connor, said, “We are currently in the process of developing a strategic approach to how we manage, maintain and upgrade all recreation assets in the region.  

“By the end of the year we hope to have a Playspace Framework, a Trails Framework and a Community and Recreation Facility Framework in place.  

“These documents will, hopefully, provide a well-defined policy position, make obligations clear for both Council and the community, and provide some robust data for our councillors to make informed decisions.”

Councillor Pauline Gill appreciates the magnitude and value of the task, nominating O’Connor as Council’s High Achiever for the work she has done to deliver on the Sports and Recreation Strategy.

“Renee has completed an audit of all sports and recreation facilities across our council to provide a comprehensive listing of work required and costings.

“She puts in hours of time, a lot of hours, to meet with sports and recreation clubs to find out their needs and to build relationships with Council.”

This Sport and Recreation Planner role is still a relatively new one for the Adelaide Hills Council, and according to O’Connor there is a considerable amount of change that needs to occur to ensure the delivery of an equitable and planned approach to Sport and Recreation asset upgrades.  

“Finding a balance between developing a new strategic approach, but also servicing the operational needs of sport and recreation in the region has been particularly difficult.

“I have lived in the Adelaide Hills my whole life and consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to work so close to home.  When you have a young family (like I do) the convenience that it provides is life changing!

“I started at the Adelaide Hills Council in January of 2016.  I had been working in Local Government for about eight years prior to that.

The Adelaide Hills Council boundary is only about 20 minutes from the state capital’s central business district, but still has a regional feel, with numerous small townships scattered throughout the area.

O’Connor counts herself lucky to work amongst some of the best food and wine that Australia has to offer, ‘and the scenery that you get on the way to a site visit is amazing’. Adelaide Hills Council has a staff of approximately 220 servicing a population of around 40,000.  

“The staff are genuinely a great bunch of people to work with, and I think we’re lucky to have a workplace that provides such a flexible and supportive environment for us.”

Developing a masterplan for the school project, and investigating the exciting joint upgrades with the Department for Education has so far been a $1 million project, but the hunt will be on for more in the near future.

“We are also in the early stages of master-planning our largest sport and recreation site that is home to Council’s only aquatic facility.”

With a degree in Recreation Planning and Management, O’Connor worked in a State Sporting Association for five years followed by a short stint at the Australian Sports Commission before landing a contract at the City of Marion as Recreation Development Officer in their Community Development Team. There she was ‘very fortunate to have an amazing manager and team leader who provided a wonderful introduction to Local Government’.  

“Over my eight years at Marion I was given some secondment opportunities to the Open Space Planning Team, which really confirmed that was where my passion lay.

“I love the wide variety of career and learning opportunities that Local Government provides, but also that I can have a direct impact on the community and witness positive change.

“I also really value the security and flexibility it provides for working parents.”

The lifestyle benefits of living in the Adelaide Hills and working in a supportive team doing work she loves means O’Connor is content with her situation for the time being.

“There is still a lot of work to do in this role, so I think I’ll be here for a while!

“Also, at our family’s stage of life, I can’t put a price on living so close to work! The convenience and flexibility is amazing.  

“I’ll have both my girls at school next year so may find myself spending a bit more time at work.”