Originally written by BILL MELDRUM
PORTLAND is punching above its weight in its relationships with the three tiers of government, but there is still room for improvement, according to Glenelg Shire chief executive officer Sharon Kelsey.
Ms Kelsey celebrates her first 12 months as the shire’s CEO tomorrow, and has outlined better service delivery, the Green Triangle Freight Action Plan, the ongoing development of infrastructure at Portland’s foreshore and diversification of the city’s economy as some of the major challenges ahead.
She also dismissed the north-south divide within the elected council body.
“I would say the shire’s diversity is our greatest strength, each community has its different strengths,” she said.
She said the council was currently working on the third submission to Infrastructure Australia for finding for the Green Triangle Freight Action Plan.
“That submission, which covers local government areas in the south-east of South Australia to Moyne and Southern Grampians, is being done in this office,” she said.
“Some members of the community will say ‘wasn’t that plan released years ago?’, and it was, but there was no funding received from the Federal Government, so that is why we are doing it again, and continually updating our submissions.
“The reason why we are continuously working on updating plans is that they are a key ingredient of applying for and gaining government funding.”
Ms Kelsey said a recent example of the shire punching above its weight was the priority list of projects for the Regional Development Australia Barwon South-West Committee.
“The Glenelg Shire managed to have the Condah-Upper Hotspur Rd listed as one of the top priorities on its list … that is no mean feat given we are competing against areas like Geelong, so getting the committee to make that road a priority is an indication of the high esteem with which the work done by this shire is held,” she said.
“Having state Cabinet in the region to see what we have here was valuable, and the Premier’s recognition of the Discovery Bay area and the Great South West Walk is something we can be proud of … it also gave the shire a great opportunity in Warrrnambool to make a submission to the Cabinet on some of our priorities.”
In relation to the infrastructure issues on the foreshore, she said it was important that people’s concerns be listened to, but that developments in the area must not be stymied.
“With regards to the foreshore lagoon, boat ramps, and the marina, we have secured the government funding so those projects are practically ready to go,” she said.
“We cannot allow some people’s comfort levels to stop projects which need to proceed for the greater good.”
Ms Kelsey said while it was really good to have two major employers in Portland such as Portland Aluminium and Keppel Prince Engineering, the key to Portland’s long-term growth was diversification.
“Tourism is important because of the associated infrastructure … cruise ships to Portland will be good, but they are not the total solution,” she said.
She remained coy on long-term plans beyond her current five-year contract with the shire.
“We have made a commitment to the position as a family,” she said.
“It was a family decision to relocate to this part of the world from Adelaide … and it really is based on happiness levels.
“I love this job, it is all about getting out in the community and meeting people.
“In the first 12 months, I estimated I have met about half of the shire’s residents, and it is an aim of mine to meet everyone in the shire.
“I have made a conscious decision that, once a week, I go and work within different areas of our workforce.
“I like to know who our employees are, what they do, how they do it and how it all fits in to delivering outcomes for the community.
“It is all about outcomes, if actions don’t deliver outcomes for the community, then we need to look at changing.”
She also said face-to-face contact, and responding to people on a one-to-one basis, was something she enjoyed and the community found different.
“I find people are really surprised when we take them for a tour of the council and tell them about the more than 150 services we provide and a breakdown of where the money in the budget goes to,” she said.