Interview: Mayor of City of Port Adelaide Enfield

By Charlene Chin

Weed killers, defence manufacturing, and Port River dolphins.

Mayor Gary Johanson talks about how the council is experimenting with new tech, and describes the city’s culture.

What is your vision for the city?

The City of Port Adelaide Enfield has long been considered, by those of us who have lived here for decades, as an untapped ‘gem’ – a secret waiting to be told.

As Mayor, I’m delighted to see our Port begin to thrive once again, with diverse small businesses – retail, restaurants, arts and culture.

That is being helped along by the Port Rejuvenation plan, which will result in approximately 1300 new dwellings being built around our beautiful Inner Harbour.

Shops that have sat vacant are ‘occupying’ and we’re seeing new diverse restaurants reflecting our multicultural community. And that is great to see.

My vision is for all our residents and businesses to enjoy a safe, exciting, supportive, harmonious and economically strong environment.

The City of Port Adelaide Enfield has recently devised and adopted a new strategic “City Plan 2030” to guide our future investment and priorities.

That plan underpins my vision for the city, which is to prioritise the following objectives: Economy, Community, Leadership, Placemaking and Environment.

How will technology help?

As a Council we have prioritised technology to ensure we are delivering services to the levels expected by communities of today.

We invest in, and are enthusiastic to trial new technologies that might enable us to reduce our environmental footprint and costs to the rate-payer.

For example, we maintain a complex network of wetlands and water-recycling system. We are currently trialling LED lighting on sporting grounds and we’re about to trial chemical free weed-killing technology.

With the Council area home to the State’s Defence manufacturing, high speed internet connection is also a major priority.

How will you develop your digital services?

The City of Port Adelaide Enfield has invested in improving access to digital services in a variety of ways.

Our field staff now use iPad as a jobs management system which has greatly improved our flexibility, efficiency, response times and overall service to the community.

The Council has invested in a dedicated professional communications and marketing team, and our online presence has significantly increased – enabling us to more effectively engage with our community.

The Adelaide Business Hub, which is a business incubator and small business advice centre, also provides clients with leading edge connectivity to attract new and innovative businesses to the area.

What has been the greatest innovation from your civil service?

Historically, a large portion of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield was built on a flood plain, so those challenges remain today.

However, we have a fantastic team of engineering professionals who recently installed an award-winning pump station to reduce the risk of stormwater flooding.

The major project was undertaken in partnership with private firms, and our Technical Services staff are to be congratulated for their innovation and dedication to the task.

The pump station means that many members of our community have new and leading-edge protection against the risk of inundation.

How is the city using feedback from citizens?

It is a priority of our Elected Members and Council staff to engage strongly with our community. After all, we are here to service their needs and it is important that we listen very closely to what they are telling us.

The engagement activities (either formal or informal) inform our decision-making and processes. We make decisions on everything from tree-planting, and playground upgrades, to rubbish collection, and major recreation ground builds based on the feedback we receive from our people.

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

The biggest challenge we overcame was a wild winter. We had several major weather events that required structured pre-planning, dedicated workers during the event and effective post-event clean-up and response.

Our Council staff have done a magnificent job informing particularly our most vulnerable residents of any risk, monitoring that risk, working if necessary right through the night to respond to any call-outs and generally ensuring we communicate with, and look after those in need.

What is your top priority for 2017?

2017 will be a year of enormous change in our city. We will have major building projects happening in the Port, courtesy of various aspects of the Port Rejuvenation.

As Mayor it is my priority, and that of our Council leaders, to continue to foster strong relationships and partnerships with our State and Federal Government counterparts and local business, to ensure we receive maximum support for our region.

We will continue to lobby both levels of Government for a funding guarantee for light-rail to connect Port Adelaide with the CBD. We believe this project is crucial to future connectivity and to make sure we take full advantage of what is happening in this region.

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


In a city as diverse and with as many offerings as the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, this truly is a difficult question for me to answer.

However, I suppose if I was to think of the area that most clearly expresses our art and culture community, natural environment, history and is undergoing significant development and economic change, then I would recommend Port Adelaide.

You could catch a glimpse of our resident Port River dolphins while sipping coffee in our café on the water, meander through cobble-stoned streets, stroll through weekend markets and art exhibitions, take a dolphin cruise or tour historic ships, visit world-class Maritime, Railway and Aviation Museums or sample delicious food from a range of cultures. But our city has immensely more to offer.