Councillor profiles – Erin Thompson Mayor City of Onkaparinga
The City of Onkaparinga is South Australia’s largest metropolitan council and one of the state’s fastest growing areas, with more than 172,000 residents. It’s also the only place in Australia where pristine beaches and unique villages are part of an internationally renowned wine and food region (McLaren Vale) within 40 minutes of a capital city. We have a diverse and unique mix of urban and rural areas, with picturesque townships and farmland alongside world-class advanced manufacturing businesses, industrial precincts and teeming retail centres. Did I mention the beaches? We’re lucky to call this place home.
I love spending time at the beach with my family. We have 31 kilometres of gorgeous coastline and each beach is different. I particularly enjoy the Port Noarlunga area where the Onkaparinga River meets the sea – it’s especially great for kayaking and paddle boarding. I recently bought a new paddle board and am looking forward to getting it in the water.
Our local businesses need our support now more than ever. Lately I’ve enjoyed exploring our fabulous wine region, McLaren Vale. We have some of the best wineries and distilleries in the world. Many of our cellar doors are kid friendly, some even dog friendly, so it’s always great to grab some friends, discover new places, and support local.
I’ve always taken an interest in local issues and it really is true what is said about local government being the closest tier of government to the people. It’s rewarding being able to make change at a local level and really see the difference it makes within your community.
I worked as a communications professional for another council before I became mayor full time. I believe good communication and community engagement is key to the success of everything we do.
Rates, rubbish and pets
Like all councils, we’re navigating the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19, which saw us endorse a zero percent rate increase for 2020-21 to provide relief to our communities. The challenge now is looking for more efficient ways to deliver quality services to our community through continuous improvement, as we recalibrate our long term financial plan.
We slashed our corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent over the past decade, but we’ve got a long way to go in responding to the global challenge of climate change. We have a new climate change response plan under development that should go some way in meeting that challenge.
We’re building a new material recycling facility along with two other councils (Marion and Holdfast Bay), which will see us move positively towards a circular economy and reduce our reliance on recycling companies.
We just embarked on Australia’s largest cat desexing program with RSPCA South Australia to offer free desexing for 2000 cats and kittens in the region, which is an innovative approach to cat management that rejects more punitive options.
Business and community support
We also recently welcomed the 1000th member of our ON Business Partner Program – a leading business support program unique in South Australia that supports local businesses of all sizes to thrive, grow and enjoy the benefits of collaboration.
We have more than 200 sporting and community clubs in our city. They are the lifeblood of our community and I’m proud of the work we’re doing to support them, both generally and specifically, in response to COVID-19. We’ve waived all lease fees and other associated costs for 2020 and will continue to review this. For clubs not utilising council facilities, we’ve waived rates and other council costs for the same period.
Acknowledging that our clubs are all volunteer run, we’re working closely with them to make life as easy as possible. This means looking for opportunities to simplify processes, cut red tape and help them to be as successful as they can be.
Our communities are impacted by the services and initiatives of Council every day. It’s exciting that we can make real change and genuinely improve the lives of our community. Being an active community member and deeply engaging with the people around us is extremely rewarding.
I have quite a long list of things I’d like to achieve as Mayor. Protecting our environment is both a priority for me and for our community. Our climate change response plan that’s under development will set ambitious targets and objectives for our city. I’m excited for the opening of our material recycling facility, which aims to service the needs of not just our city but multiple South Australian councils. This will help end our reliance on sending materials elsewhere, which reduces our carbon footprint and the costs to ratepayers.
I’m also passionate about improving the way we engage with our Aboriginal community and how we acknowledge and celebrate our pre-European history. I’m working with our local Kaurna elders and representatives to find better ways of working together and hope to formalise this in the very near future.