Councillor profiles - Laurene Bonza President Shire of Dundas

Article image - Councillor profiles - Laurene Bonza President Shire of Dundas

The Shire of Dundas is in the heart of the Great Western Woodlands which is the largest, intact, temperate forest left on the planet!  This woodland area has a huge number of Eucalypt species and our trees and landscapes are truly beautiful.

Our local aboriginal people are the Ngadju and this group has exclusive Native Title rights over a large portion of our Shire.  We have a newly established Ngadju Ranger group who are actively working on country and are also our Dundas Rural Bush Fire Brigade.

A smaller portion towards the South Australian border, is home to the Mirrning people.

Our Shire covers an area of around 93,000 square km and extends from approximately 150km from Hyden all the way to the Western Australia/South Australia border and roughly 50km north and south of the town of Norseman.  The Shire also includes the tiny town of Eucla.

I love our bush in this area. The trees are truly beautiful and there are also some outstanding and absolutely unique granite outcrops to explore.  Not to mention our stunning coastline out towards Eucla and surrounds.

Learning on the job
I was elected to my second term on Council at the immediate past elections.  Two years into my first term, I was very humbled and proud to become Shire President, following the retirement of the previous President.  I retained my position as Shire President after the last elections.  I originally became involved in Local Government without a really clear understanding of how it all worked but, having a keen interest in being involved.  It’s been a steep learning curve but, it’s a challenge I really enjoy.

Outside of Council I work part time as the Customer Service Officer at the Norseman Police Station. I think my role there gives me the ability to engage with a diverse range of people and gives me people skills to handle many different situations including some hostile encounters, which are, sadly, necessary when dealing with some disgruntled community members!

Apparently, I like to engage in Local Government activities outside work hours as that does tend to take quite a bit of my time! Otherwise, I do enjoy trail running and curling up with a good book when the weather is conducive to indoor activities.

Shrinking rates base
We are a small (population 770), remote shire, largely dependent on the resources sector but, having suffered a downturn and hence population decline over the last 15 or so years, we are now turning our focus to the obvious tourism potential of our area.
The current challenges facing Council mainly revolve around our diminishing rates base, and the need to maintain a suitable level of community
services and infrastructure and retain current levels of State Government department services.  We are also facing a challenge relating to bushfire recovery, having had approximately 500,000 ha burnt out over the Christmas/New Year period. Funding assistance for this recovery has not been forthcoming from either federal or state governments, so finding those extra resources in our limited budget is certainly keeping us on our toes.

Leaving a legacy
Our Woodlands Cultural, Community and Visitor centre project is currently in its final stages of completion. This facility is in a re-purposed building and will house our Visitor Centre, Community Resource Centre and incorporate a Woodlands interpretive element as well as a gallery of local, woodlands-themed art.  We are very excited about this project and keenly anticipating the official opening.

Last year Council took a motion to the Western Australia Local Government Association (WALGA) annual general meeting. We asked the Association to lobby State Government for a review of the Mining Act (1978) to ensure mining companies are mandated to fully engage with Local Government to leave legacy projects and to ban the use of 100 percent fly-in-fly-out workforces. This motion was well supported and has now been taken to State Government and a working group established to consider how best to bring about the changes.

I really enjoy the interactions with councillors from other councils and also the lobbying of state and federal government members to try and get the best possible outcomes for our shire and community.

I enjoy the lobbying less when it feels like you’re just not getting the point across and the desired outcomes are not forthcoming.

I hope that we can resolve our population issues by adjusting our focus from a purely resources reliant community and embrace our natural resources to encourage more visitors and establish some different businesses in town that can make our community more self-sustaining in the face of further mining industry downturns.