What lies ahead for the District Council of Mallala and its residents? The Echo asked outgoing CEO, Charles Mansueto, to give a personal overview on the destiny of our growing region
District Council of Mallala (DCM) and its community have before it a challenging but also exciting future.
DCM is a small rural council that is now becoming more of a peri-urban council dealing with growth pressures and opportunities.
The need for additional infrastructure has been managed for new developments as currently occurring at Two Wells.
Large developments allow council the ability to negotiate the infrastructure demands better than piece-meal development, which provide for limited investment by the developer on services beyond the development itself.
The ability to attract a B-12 school to the area is a prime example of larger developments attracting better services that the community needs.
A challenge for council is to manage the ever-increasing demand for services that are being requested now.
For example, there has been a continuing pressure to construct sealed roads due to dust and other associated issues.
As a small council this demand is difficult to manage and will require council to approach this issue differently in the future, potentially focusing road upgrades around economic opportunities.
One of the community’s assets is its coastal area.
One of the challenges with the coastal area is the increasing pressure to deal with predicted sea level rise.
A current study into this is near completion and council will need to consider the recommendations and strategically address these to ensure it can sustainably manage the risk of sea level rise.
To some degree our coastal communities will be in a better position than many other coastal settlements as they will have a plan that was developed using their knowledge of past events in adapting to the future.
One of the untapped opportunities for the community is the potential increased investment in the horticultural industry.
Various pressures are pushing growers in the traditional food bowl of Virginia to look elsewhere.
DCM has an enormous potential to capitalise on this by creating a planning environment that supports such growth while also ensuring the infrastructure is in place.
Council has been proactive on this issue, working actively to access a much-needed sustainable water supply – a key driver to the increased investment in this industry.
Council has also, through its Strategic Directions Report and a recent joint study into the horticultural industry, identified key planning issues that need to be addressed if a supportive planning environment is to be achieved.
This opportunity needs to be capitalised on now given the state government’s activity in looking at future economic growth beyond the traditional manufacturing industry.
The issue of debt has always been one that understandably creates considerable debate amongst council and its community.
Effectively leveraged debt is not a major concern if the debt is being spent on increasing the council’s capacity to meet the needs of the community and within its Long Term Financial Plan.
Examples of projects that have impacted on council’s debt levels recently and into the future (subject to council approving proposed projects) are increased investment in road construction, development related infrastructure, civic precinct and community waste management schemes.
It is interesting to note road construction is the greatest area of spending in council’s Long Term Financial Plan, well beyond any other infrastructure projects.
On the other side of the equation this investment using debt brings with it additional rate revenue (as an example the current application for an initial 590 homes at Two Wells will generate approximately $1.9m in additional rate revenue over the next 5 years with limited impact on council’s costs), capacity to address community’s needs, more jobs, increased investment in services by the private sector, better health environment, and more flexibility for individuals to utilise their land in other ways (by eliminating the need for septic tanks/soakage pits).
A challenge for council will be to engage with the community to both improve understanding of debt, what is an appropriate level of debt and the opportunities it brings if managed effectively.
And finally, the Two Wells Town Centre upgrade is key to ensuring better services are provided to the entire community.
A strong message from the community was to ensure the vitality of the Two Wells Town Centre is enhanced while preserving the rural character.
These aspects are currently being worked on in drafting amendments to the Development Plan to ensure the town centre grows with the community and ensuring its character is not lost.
Within these plans the new council will need to engage with the community as to whether a new civic centre that brings together a number of key services is supported.
A properly planned civic centre is more than just an office – it is a place where the community has the ability to learn, live and play – all key drivers in enhancing the community’s well being.
These are just a snapshot of what I see as the key issues that need to be addressed.
In the end how successful council is in addressing the challenges and capitalising on the opportunities will require a common trust and collaboration amongst councillors, community and staff.
It has been a pleasure to work with many passionate community members and I look forward to seeing the continued progression of some key initiatives.