Councillor profiles – Mayor Shane Van Styn FCPA City of Greater Geraldton
Greater Geraldton is a coastal city of 40,000 people located 410km north of Perth. It serves as the regional capital of the Midwest, with a regional population of 55,000 people. Geraldton has a very diverse economy with no single industry greater than 16 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) or employment. Our economy’s largest sectors are lobster fishing, port handling, airport and tourism, farming, horticulture, mining services, construction, retail and government services. This diversity sees our economy being quite resilient during times of commodity price swings.
In 2016 Council embarked on a plan to grow tourism from 2 percent to 10 percent of our economy in a decade. Pre COVID-19 we saw that grow to 4 percent and now despite seeing international tourism cease, domestic tourism continues to flourish.
A key to building our tourism industry has been the gradual opening-up of the Abrolhos Islands to tourism. Located 50km west of Geraldton, the 122 island archipelago, is one of the most biodiverse areas on earth. We are seeing new businesses come online with daily fast ferry services, hotel ships, fishing charters and more. Home of Australia’s oldest European building, the Wiebbe Hayes fort is just under 400 years old, dating from the Batavia mutiny of 1629.
This need to grow tourism is part of what drove me to stand as Mayor in 2016.
Council had lost sight
I am a CPA accountant by trade and back in 2011 the City’s finances were in dire straits and I felt as though Council had badly lost sight of its core purpose of efficiently delivering essential community services and facilities. Seeing this and regularly attending Council meetings to try and get Council to hear my concerns, it became evident I should run for Council. I was first elected to Council in 2011 and served as a Councillor until being elected as Mayor in 2015 at 38 years of age. I was re-elected by the people of Geraldton again in 2019.
Apart from being an accountant I am also the director of Forefront Security, a security company of 30 staff, focused on guarding and patrolling commercial and government sites. We also specialise in ATM servicing which sees myself and staff cover an area of approximately 100,000 square kilometres. This means I see a great deal of our region and I get to talk to people well beyond our local government area and learn how things are done in other areas as well as share our ideas. I am also a proud landlord of Geraldton’s first microbrewery, which is soon to open. This business experience allows me to relate to our corporate constituents.
Solid financial base
During my term, the City has turned around large deficit budgets, has reigned in rate rises to inflation or below (from a high of 27 percent in a single year) and now we are focussed on achieving a solid financial base that sees us able to deliver on all our asset renewal needs, deliver new facilities as needed as well as provide for future Council priorities.
One key focus Council has is the revitalising of our central business district, which has been undertaking a radical transformation over the last decade along with our inner-city foreshore reserve which spans around 10km.
Being a coastal city, coastal erosion is a key challenge we face. Protection of our coastline is very expensive and requires cooperation between all tiers of government. We have been successful in doing a great deal of work with the help of state and federal governments and we are planning to create a mini marina on our northern-most suburb to help protect that area from erosion while at the same time, provide much needed boat launching facilities.
Overall, as an accountant I am particularly proud of our financial management and the fact that as a Council we are very well regarded in the community. We have had very little turnover of councillors in recent elections, sometimes seeing all councillors returned.
It is my aim to continue to renew and grow our City and leave it not only looking better and bustling with tourists, but also with a financial capacity to undertake whatever projects the future sees us require.