- April 18, 2018
- Posted by: Gail Giles-Gidney
- Category: Update
This week marks four years since I was given the honour of being elected as Mayor of Willoughby City Council.
During those four years a lot has happened and I am proud of what has been achieved.
Inescapably, the threat of Council Amalgamations loomed large for a greater part of this time. Willoughby City Council worked efficiently, with residents interests’ paramount and kept ratepayers out of expensive litigation. As it turned out, the State Government abandoned merger plans for us and consequently Willoughby is able, and well positioned, to continue our proud 153 year history.
While this significant change didn’t happen, others have.
During the time I have been on Council, we have seen a shift in Council’s own composition. In 2009, when I was first elected to Council, I was one of its’ youngest elected representatives, despite myself being a ‘baby boomer’, and I was the only parent with school aged children. Our Council is now much more representative of our community, with our youngest Councillor being 23 years old, four of our Councillors having school-age children, from toddlers to teenagers, and with cultural and gender diversity. Importantly the “corporate history” from longer serving Councillors has also been maintained. This balance has and will serve us well during this term, in making strategic decisions about Willoughby’s future.
At the time of my election as Mayor in 2014, I committed to a review of key policy areas and I’m proud to report that we have made significant advancements here as well:
- Our traffic and parking strategy continues to be rolled out. There is no magical solution to address congestion associated with either increasing population density within Willoughby, or the increasing through traffic we each see heading to and from City of Sydney every day, but we now have a plan within which to introduce controls and to seek to mitigate negative consequences;
- We remain focused on supporting sport and recreation, providing four synthetic turfs, additional lighting and adopting a policy to ensure residential amenity is considered for field usage; and
- We have completed our review of Chatswood’s CBD strategy and are now working with the community and Progress Associations on planning for our villages, through a Local Centres study, and with coordinated improvements to streetscapes.
In Chatswood, Vivid is back for the third year and Council’s Events Team continue to engage a broad section of our community from Seniors to families with a wide variety of activities. Pleasingly, The Concourse precinct is now self-sustaining with income from retail shops and parking helping to support ongoing costs associated with the Library and other community facilities available.
I am also pleased to have been advised by Officers that Council has improved our service delivery with a new project management office successfully delivering on 95+% of projects annually, including within the last year alone, playground upgrades, road and street lighting upgrades and streetscape improvements. We have also commenced work on the Gore Hill precinct upgrade and are well underway in refurbishment of Willoughby Leisure centre changing room facilities. Importantly, our local environment also continues to be protected and enhanced with the cooperation of 40 volunteer bush care groups, continuing work on ensuring efficiency in our energy use and our waste disposal and we are currently investigating 30 properties for heritage listing.
In delivering these projects Council has adopted a conservative approach to financial management, within the context of a long term financial plan and an annual operating budget. The current budget builds on the solid foundation of organisation efficiencies introduced in the past two years and Willoughby now has over $100M in reserves. Willoughby is in good financial shape for the future.
In another significant change, the State Government recently announced mandatory changes to DA approval processes that mean that approvals now rest with a Local Planning Panel (IHAP) or council officers, rather than your local Councillors. There are positive and negatives with this State Government implemented change but Council retains overall control of the planning environment in which DA’s are assessed, through Willoughby’s Local Environment Plan (LEP) and we continue to strive to make sure positive outcomes are achieved for our community.
Of course this is just a snapshot of the developments and achievements that have occurred over the past four years.
At every step of the way I have felt privilege of being Mayor of Willoughby City. I love my role and I am very grateful for the support of so many community members, friends and family. This term of Council finishes in September 2020 and I am, along with the WCC team, are working hard to continue to deliver to our broader community to this date and well beyond.