Councillor profiles - Mayor Loretta Baker Maitland City Council
My favourite aspects of Maitland include the Hunter River which winds its way through the city, and the surrounding flood plains which give us a rural aspect despite actually having a population of 85,000 people. We also have a very rich heritage and the many heritage facades which line High Street add to the unique beauty of our city. Our residents enjoy scenic beauty, unique villages, a rich heritage and history, and an attractive lifestyle all in a very convenient location.
Whilst tourism is an important industry for many regional towns, Maitland’s rich heritage is a drawcard for many visitors to our city. Maitland City Council further enhances that with a number of very successful flagship events throughout the year including the AROMA and Taste festivals featuring chocolate and coffee, and food and wine respectively. They draw in thousands of people as does the very colourful Riverlights Multicultural Festival and the annual Steamfest event.
I have a strong interest in the arts and I am a big supporter of Maitland Regional Art Gallery, a dynamic place attracting well known artists from across the state as well as being a popular tourist destination.
Maitland has an active arts and creative community; people move here because of the creative movement and it is gathering a momentum of its own. Our heritage buildings are perfect for adaptive re-use as art galleries and studios, and a number of them now dot the City centre.
On a personal level I am a passionate gardener and the rich alluvial soils of Maitland serve me well as they do our local farmers who grow quality produce to grace our meal tables. Maitland has the first Slow Food Earth Market in Australia supplying fresh seasonal and fair produce.
I have been on Council for 11 years and became a councillor after a long career in health as a nurse with a strong interest in social determinants of health.
As noted above, I had a long career in nursing and have a strong interest in mental health and feel that local government is uniquely positioned to plan and develop our cities in a way that supports community connectedness and enhances our social and emotional wellbeing.
The quality of life
Maitland is uniquely placed at the end of the freeway two hours from Sydney and 40 minutes from Newcastle airport. The New England Highway runs through the city. The Hunter Valley vineyards are 30 minutes away, with Port Stephens and Newcastle also within 40 mins drive. We are the fastest growing inland city in New South Wales and our health, education and retail sectors serve the surrounding regions.
Due to our exponential growth we face considerable challenges with infrastructure not keeping pace with development. In particular our road networks and, like most regional cities, we are car dependent. A number of the vital transport links required are state roads and we continue to work with the State Government to deliver this essential infrastructure. As we grow, we need to ensure that we preserve the quality of life Maitland residents currently enjoy and the ease of getting around the city and to work is an essential component of this.
The New Maitland Hospital is a $450 million dollar catalyst project for Maitland and it is well underway with an expectation that it will be completed in 2022.
Whilst the private sector and Catholic Education are pushing ahead building new schools to cope with the growing population, the public school system also requires a building programme to allow for greater choice and diversity in education as we continue to grow.
Blending old and new
There has been considerable renewal and refurbishment of our CBD over the past 10 years and our lifestyle precinct adjacent the river, ‘The Levee’, now boasts an award winning Riverlink building embracing the river and its scenic views. This building has won architectural awards around the world and the Sulman and Blacket prizes in New South Wales and is a building that I am very proud of. Contemporary architecture sitting beautifully amongst heritage facades.
We have a lot to celebrate in Maitland and as we pull through and out the end of the Coronavirus Pandemic check out our great festival programme and spend a weekend exploring our beautiful city.