Sutherland was the first point where Captain James Cook landed and founded Australia. Mayor Carmelo Pesce discusses this historic city’s smart infrastructure plans, its efforts to create resilience in the face of natural disasters, and the Shire’s “easy coastal charm” as an attraction.

What is your vision for Sutherland Shire?

My vision for the Shire is to create and maintain a connected and safe community that respects people and nature, enjoying active lives in a strong local economy.

We want to provide community leadership and help translate the Shire vision to improve lifestyles and community well-being, and the natural environment. We remain focused on delivering our core responsibilities and providing a high quality service to our residents, local business and the many visitors to our area.

How will technology help?

Sutherland Shire Council’s Information Management and Technology Strategy is guided by the ‘customer centric’ approach of the Our Shire, Our Future – Our Guide for Shaping the Shire to 2030, and more specifically by creating a thriving community of active lives connected to nature. This Strategy will support thinking creatively about solutions, genuinely connecting to residents, listing what’s important to residents and delivery every day through three efforts.

First, the council aims to enhance residents’ experience by rolling out and maintaining services to develop, implement and maintain services to ensure the means for efficient information delivery are maintained direct to the residences and businesses of Sutherland Shire.

It will also manage information that emerges from information exchanges within Council and between it and the residents and businesses of Sutherland Shire.

Second, it will increase value-add to residents by analysing and delivering the most appropriate and cost effective service requirements for residents; coordinating the information resources that support Council knowledge to residents; and retrieve, create, analyse, disseminate and present value-added information to residents, through an integrated information management solution.

Third, the council will maximise accessibility and minimise risk by acquiring, storing and making information accessible to maintain Council’s knowledge in appropriate information resources; and adhering to the information governance arrangements, by maximising the benefits and minimising the risks from information held by Council.

How will you develop your digital services?

Sutherland Shire Council is exploring the Smart Cities Plan from Federal Government, which we believe will position our area to succeed in the new digital economy. It will assist us to plan more effectively and efficiently in the support of productive, accessible, liveable areas that attract talent, encourage innovation and create jobs and growth.

What has been the greatest innovation from your civil service?

There are a number of areas in which Sutherland Shire Council is leading the way with innovative strategies and behaviours.

Working with private enterprise, a Voluntary Planning Agreement with Suez Environment has been created which will provide Council with A$100m for projects over 15 years. This will provide the ability for us to update existing infrastructure and create new infrastructure for our community.

This year Council has won a number of prestigious awards, and has also completed a number of long term projects and celebrated milestones such as the 40th Anniversary Mayoral Debutante Charity Ball.

Planning is also underway for our 20th Australia Day celebrations on 26 January 2017, in which we will bring world class entertainment in the form of the Ten Tenors to perform on Cronulla Beach in a spectacular free concert for the community.

What has been the biggest challenge that the council overcame in 2016?

In December 2015, Sutherland Shire was faced with a tornado in the suburb of Kurnell. It had a significant impact that was felt by the whole community throughout 2016, where wind gusts were up to 213 km/h, the fastest ever recorded in NSW.

The tornado damaged 147 houses, with 38 severely damaged and uninhabitable; de-roofed warehouse facilities and caused asbestos contamination, fuel spills and downed high voltage power lines in industrial sites on Kurnell Peninsula. wind gusts were up to 213 km/h, the fastest ever recorded in NSW.

Since 1938 the Shire has experienced 17 bush fire events, 50 earthquake recordings and many major storms including the 1999 hailstorm and the devastating Kurnell tornado in December 2015.

Out of the devastation however came a positive as it highlighted that when faced with adversity, the Shire came together. Many people rolled up their sleeves and helped in many ways in the massive response and recovery effort and demonstrated the strength of the community.

What is your top priority for 2017?

My top priority for 2017 is to consolidate on the work I started when I became Mayor in 2015. I now have a two year term at Mayor ahead of me and plan to continue the work of the previous Council in keeping rates low and not introducing any special rate levies.

Another priority is to see shovels in the ground for a new Sutherland Entertainment Centre by the end of the next term of council. Or at the very least a decision on which way to go. In June this year, the council appointed a consultant to prepare a detailed business case for building a new entertainment centre and I have been working on it for the last three years.

As well as low rates, I also want us to continue to focus on delivering infrastructure to make sure residents get value for their rates.

Council’s finances are in good shape as a result of decisions made over the last four years and this is highlighted by the fact that out of 158 councils in NSW, only eight ticked the box as being ‘fit for the future’. This meant that these eight Council’s avoided amalgamation. Sutherland Shire Council was one of these eight.

If I were to visit your city, what one place would you recommend?

Sutherland Shire is located in Sydney’s south and is shaped by bays, rivers, beaches and national parks. We truly are spoilt for choice with Sydney’s longest surf beach, spectacular national parks and sparkling blue waterways. Our relaxed atmosphere offers an emerging food scene, fresh fashion and design stores mixed with easy coastal charm. The Shire is also rich with history, being the birthplace of modern Australia, the first point Captain James Cook landed in 1770.

My personal favourite spot though has to be Jibbon Beach in Bundeena on my boat.