Councillor profiles Des Noll Mayor Wattle Range Council

Article image - Councillor profiles  Des Noll Mayor Wattle Range Council

Wattle Range Council was founded on 1 July 1997, following the amalgamation of the former district councils of Beachport, Millicent, and Penola in South Australia’s southeast. This came about as those councils were not individually sustainable. The new council area has a population of around 12,000 residents and covers an area of 3924 square km, or 394,602 ha. It extends from the coast to the Victorian border incorporating the seaside towns of Beachport and Southend. The major service centre is Millicent, and in the east, we have the historic town of Penola and world-renowned Coonawarra wine region.

Diverse and productive
Wattle Range has a widely diverse economy. We have rural land used largely for sheep and cattle grazing; crop growing – horticulture, viticulture, and timber production; and manufacturing; along with fishing and tourism being our major industries. We have a comprehensive land drainage system that, over many years, has supported a complex wildlife environment sustained by a regular rainfall. Our diversity has created one of the most productive rural areas in South Australia, thus encouraging businesses to re-locate into our area and pursue new opportunities.

Remembering the local urban myth: Beachport is the only coastal tourist town in Australia, that when tourists walk out along the jetty the cray fish jump out of the ocean onto the jetty and greet you. Now that’s diversity!

The diversity of the region has created a sought-after landscape attracting outsiders who, in recent times, have been purchasing both farming and residential properties. Economically this has been rewarding for our area and important for population growth and employment.

Our greatest asset
My favourite part of our Council area is its people. People are our greatest asset. Our communities are all based around making things happen, as individuals and as communities. They are well supported by our community service clubs facilitated by volunteers which are a vital link to community success.

A large pool of volunteers works tirelessly and altruistically across the Council area, building better communities in which they live and work. Our Council is committed to our volunteers, with a volunteer management team to support their work. Our communities are highly connected and prepared to work together, in many ways this has been the foundation for success.  

First time elected
When I became Mayor of the Wattle Range Council in November 2018, it was my first entry into local government. The decision was not taken lightly as it is the highest level of service to my community. I viewed it as an opportunity to give back to the community of which I have been a member for about thirty-four years. As a community leader prior to entering local government, I wanted to demonstrate to others in the community that such positions can be achieved without spending years in local government. I knew I had the skills to serve as mayor and what it would take to be a success. 

The mayoral platform allows me to identify issues and positively speak out. Importantly, it allows me to deliver leadership to the community and embrace community expectations. Communities identify this as strength in
local government.  

Community leadership is a simple concept: maintain integrity, be honest and transparent, show empathy and remember it is about serving the community and connecting with people. It is never about yourself or your ego.

I am continually aware of not leaving any community member behind. When making decisions, I ask myself the following: is it good for the Council/organisation? and is it good for the ratepayer/community? If both these questions are answered in the negative, then the decision is no. Sadly, too often in Local Government we see mayors and elected members breaching codes of conducts because they are not following basic principles of behaviour and community expectations. 

Vision and values
Council’s vision and values has a foundation of Trust, Teamwork and Fun, this supports the theme of ‘Wattle Range is a great place to live and work’.

We have an annual budget of $25 million and a staff of 133. Council is a successful equal opportunity employer, having achieved a workforce with fifty/fifty gender equity.

Our strategic plan structure is based on five themes: 

  • community vibrancy and presentation
  • economic prosperity
  • environmental sustainability
  • infrastructure and asset sustainability, and 
  • organisational excellence. 

Like all councils, we have challenges. Supplying services, maintaining infrastructure and delivering a budget to meet current and future community expectations whilst limiting rate increases is the predicament Council finds itself in all the time. 

The personal success I have had whilst serving as mayor is from being part of a highly motived team. Our organisational culture allows for innovation and people to be proud of what they do. Everybody works together for their community. Such a positive organisational culture allows me to serve the community with the highest level of confidence, always ensuring that the office of mayor maintains the highest level of integrity. This is demanded by the entire community.

In summary, it is all about community – connecting with the community and listening to issues being shared, and remembering all issues shared by people are very real to them, no matter how trivial they may sound to others.  Positively connecting with community is my greatest accomplishment.