Interview: Mayor of Onkaparinga City

Tackling climate change, testing driverless cars and wooing Chinese cities.

Lorraine Rosenberg - Mayor of the City of Onkaparinga, South Australia - talks about how the council is preparing for climate change. What is your vision for your city? I want our city to be seen as innovative, progressive and vibrant. We’re doing all we can to make Onkaparinga a place where investors want to invest, and families want to build their dream home and bring up their children. It should be a region that tourists flock to for our world class food and wine with landscapes and beaches second to none. The city should also be a hub of business innovation and expansion, linking our unique attributes to global markets. To achieve all of this we must play our part in building strong, vibrant communities. We also need to support the development of a local economy that is diverse, adaptable, built on innovation and provides our communities with opportunities for employment within our city. How can technology help? Around 90 per cent of our businesses are small and medium enterprise and many operate from home. To be competitive on the global stage, they need fast internet capacity. lorraine-rosenberg-approved-image-pic-photo That’s why the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network is so important to our region and allows us the flexibility to access the market in a new way. The City of Onkaparinga was one of the first regions to receive the NBN and that rollout is continuing across our entire city. We also have several large manufacturing companies in our city including Redarc and Seeley International. Both companies are innovators and we know that Seeley is using advanced robotic technology to maintain competitive advantage. How will you develop your digital services? We’re in the final stages of developing our own Digital Strategy. This outlines how we as a council will seek to integrate new technologies with innovative management plans for a variety of core council service provisions, including waste management, surveillance, cleaning and the like. Our region was also recently home to one of the first on-road trials of autonomous vehicles in Australia, and we’re keen to further support this kind of innovation. Internally we have developed a new system which allows people to submit development applications online, which has significantly streamlined this process. We have facilitated the upskilling of business via digital hubs to ensure the capabilities of the NBN can be maximised. Additionally, we’re exploring opportunities to extend our high speed SABREnet facility to other regions of the city that can support growth in micro-businesses and entrepreneurship. What has been the greatest innovation from your civil service? There have been many but two innovations spring to mind. Our Resilient South program is a joint-venture between Onkaparinga, Marion, Holdfast and Mitcham councils to assess and mitigate the impacts of climate change in our cities, with support for the state government. One recent advance that has been gaining a lot of attention is the Cool Places Initiative. As part of this, we commissioned a light aircraft fitted with GPS technology to take thermal infrared images over Adelaide’s southern suburbs on one of the hottest days in February 2016. These images were then used to estimate surface temperature and identify hot spots. This imaging enables us to more accurately plan the green, open spaces and deliver smarter urban design that works to counter environmental impacts of development including the urban heat island effect. Our second innovation is in waste services. In 2014 the City of Onkaparinga became the first South Australian council to be paid for kerbside recyclables, in a seven year contract with SKM Recycling. Efficiencies across all council waste collection services, combined with the new income from kerbside recyclables, will improve the council’s bottom line by $8 million over the seven year contract. How is the city using feedback from citizens? We regularly invite feedback from our communities to inform our planning. Our Project Status Board keeps people up to date about our engagement activities including Council decision-making and feedback to communities about your input. Anyone with an interest in the council can join the Onkaparinga E Digest by completing an online registration form. Members receive monthly email newsletters that provide information, updates and invitations to participate in engagement opportunities. A community forum brings residents and Council together about things happening in our area. A committee of residents run these meetings for the community with support from City of Onkaparinga. Our community education program provides opportunities for school and community groups to participate in activities to increase understanding of civics, citizenship and community engagement. Every year we randomly recruit about 500 residents who reflect the Onkaparinga adult population in terms of age, gender and geographical location. Onkaparinga Resident E Panel members thoughtfully consider issues about our services, priorities and projects and provide their feedback to us on a regular basis. What has been the biggest challenge that the city overcame in 2016? Our biggest challenge is maintaining low annual council rate increases while still delivering services, projects and amenities to meet the expectations of our communities. We recognise that broader cost of living pressures on our residents are continually growing, and our aim is not to compound those pressures by operating as efficiently as possible. In response to this challenge, over the last four years we’ve delivered an ongoing $3.6 million annual budget saving, and achieved organisation wide efficiencies as a result of extensive service reviews. We’ve also been working with major councils in Adelaide through the G6 procurement program to realise cost savings, and we’re continually exploring other opportunities to achieve further efficiency through collaboration. What is your top priority for 2017? Our top priority in 2017 is delivering on the enormous time and financial resources our council has put into building our relationship with China. This year we signed four memorandums of understanding (MOU) with the City of Jinan, Chinese companies and Beijing Development Area as well as a tripartite MOU with the Water Industry Alliance and Shandong Ronghui Guantong. While each of these MOUs has specific areas of focus, collectively they aim to identify and facilitate opportunities in trade, employment and enterprise cooperation. If I were to visit your city, what one place would you recommend? Without question, our magnificent McLaren Vale wine region is not to be missed, and because it’s located so close to the ocean you can also explore the pristine 31km coastline within our council area.