So here I am in my black robe with blue silk edging, gold badge on my left lapel. In single file we enter the chamber and stand by our seats, awaiting the entrance of the Lord Mayor. I look around at the new council. Mostly younger than me, mostly newly elected, with useful expertise and life experience. These are people who stood for council because they love the city of Adelaide and want to help shape the place they live and work.
The people of the city sent a clear message in November 2022. They voted for a new council because they wanted change.
During the election, I heard over and over that people were sick of a council that seemed to be always fighting with each other so much so that they became powerless and irrelevant. As residents, they felt forgotten and ignored.
People said they wanted the council to be forward-thinking and stand up for the things they valued. Things like a decent community, a planned city, and a focus on addressing climate change. They wanted us to be champions for the parklands and speak up against unfettered development that created uncertainty, and made living in the city more difficult.
It is no wonder that 7 of the people elected are brand new and one recently elected around 18 months ago. Regardless of what happened in previous councils or during the election, there is now a determination to work together and work hard.
We have a few immediate challenges. Here is my list.
Challenge one: Making the Development Act fairer and more consultative.
The State Government Independent Review of the Planning and Development Act is happening right now with the public consultation period finishing on December 16th last year. Councils have been given until January 31st to respond because most councils in the state were in election mode during the review period.
The problem with the current development process is worthy of a blog of its own, but right now we need to clearly articulate the many concerns of residents in the city council area about the lack of transparency, consultation, appeal rights, and the need for a proper planning process, not just a development approval process.
We will be working to make the strongest submission possible. At the last council meeting of 2022, I moved that, as part of this process, residents are consulted and we request any residents submissions to the review be shared with us so we can make sure we address your concerns and include your suggestions.
Challenge two: The fight for our parklands
The State Government appears to consider the parklands as free space to build on. Over the last six months we have seen so many attacks on our green space, the most recent being the proposed site for the new aquatic centre and the Women’s and Children’s hospital. The latter even involved pushing through legislation in a ruthless attack on the parklands. This legislation overrides the Parklands Act, the Adelaide City Council, the Heritage Act and even the Planning Act.
Our council passed a motion in the last meeting, led by Councillor Keiran Snape to reassert our commitment to protecting the parklands and reducing buildings and car parks from the lungs of our city.
Challenge three: Post-COVID recovery for the city
Anyone else noticed how quiet it’s been since the car race in November?
The previous council leadership had a theory that events will bring back people into the city but the impact on residents and city business has never been properly assessed.
My view is that it’s better to create the City of Adelaide as a place where people want to live and tap into the wisdom and amazing creativity of our people. This will build a place that is lively and inclusive where others want to hang out. A city that is a good place for people is a prosperous city.
Recovery from COVID in the short term relied on direct funding to businesses in vouchers and subsidies. This approach is now not sustainable. The previous council set up an agency (AEDA) outside of the direct control of the council with a budget of $11mill to build our city economy. Has it been effective? Has it provided value for money? Is this the best way to support city businesses and build a city where people want to live?
These questions need answering and that’s why I moved to have an independent review of AEDA at the last council meeting so we can make informed decisions in time for the next budget.
Although these are all immediate and pressing issues, we also need to keep our eyes on the big picture and the long term. We need a long-term vision for our city with the right strategic plan and budget to deliver this vision. This should include an integrated green transport plan, real action on climate change, and an inclusive and diverse city with a range of housing options and support for our community.
I know our new council is up for these challenges.