Interview: Mayor of City of Playford

Cutting-edge apps, digital services, and wineries.

Mayor Glenn Docherty talks about his Smart City vision and how digital will help drive the economy. What is your vision for the city and what is your top priority for 2017? The City of Playford has embarked on a journey to become a $500 million world-class ‘Smart City’ in the heart of our business district. IMG_7529 (1) It’s the most exciting era in the City of Playford’s history and my vision in the coming year is to help our region transform from being a manufacturing heartland to a digitally connected community. We will use innovative technology to grow and diversify our economy, create jobs and reduce the cost of doing business. What has been the biggest challenge that the city overcame in 2016? Our region, which is located 30 kilometres north of Adelaide’s city centre, is currently experiencing a great deal of change. A key driver of this change is the imminent closure of the General Motors Holden factory, based in our central suburb of Elizabeth South for the last 60 years. As a result Playford had to move quickly and evolve – especially as our region has one of the fastest growing populations in South Australia. We are now focused on creating new jobs in new industries with an emphasis on innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. How will technology help? Technology has become an integral part of our lives and our culture. Our “Smart City, Connected Community” Strategy will feature the state’s second high density CBD and be complemented by high-tech health, education and sports precincts. We have already attracted interest from outside of our region. From Sydney to Singapore, investors have signed memorandums of understanding or secured the rights to a number of key projects, such as a $60 million state-of-the-art research centre and aged-care facility; and plans to build the biggest ice sports and entertainment arena in the Southern Hemisphere. How will you develop your digital services? Our new technology partner will provide the hardware, in partnership with our telco. We will deploy one of the fastest broadband networks in the world (10-gig-per-second) in the soon-to-be-built Prince George Plaza. We are also in the final stages of negotiating a range of apps and tech services with a company for council to deliver to our residents and businesses. Interestingly, our older residents have shown great enthusiasm to come on our smart journey and we are providing a record number of digital literacy programs at Playford. What changes have you brought to public service delivery at Playford? We have just completed our eigital transition strategy. This includes two strategic principles: The first is growing the digital economy, focusing on how the city of Playford will support the growth of local business. Council plays a role as both a customer and sponsor of local businesses, institutions and non‑profit organisations. Council with its resources and reach is a significant player in the local economy. The second is to building digital foundations recognising the core capabilities on which digital services are built. These are the principles for the engine room of our technology delivery capability. Often unseen, but critically important to support the customer delivery relationship. How is the city using feedback from citizens? At Playford, consultation is critical to understand our community’s needs and desires. We recently conducted an online customer survey and will use the data to identify ways to improve or enhance our core services, as well as streamline the way they engage with us. What is the biggest area of spending for the city? Infrastructure development is the biggest area of spending in terms of our CBD, plaza, health, sports precincts - such as a AU$ 9 million tennis centre - and, of course, road infrastructure. If I were to visit your city, what one place would you recommend? Our region stretches from the rolling hills of Mt Lofty Ranges to the sea. There are beautiful pockets of wineries, urban and rural living and we have one of the largest food producing regions in South Australia. So recommending one place for a visitor isn’t easy! That said one of my favourite place is the rural community of One Tree Hill. There are two wineries, a historic hotel and the township is within walking distance of the beautiful bushland setting of Para Wirra Conservation Park. The family friendly park has many recreational facilities as well as the lakes and nature trails brimming with native flowers and Australian wildlife. Image from City of Playfordˈs Twitter page