Interview: Mayor of the City of Victor Harbor

By Charlene Chin

Electric highways, digital art, and horse-drawn trams.

Mayor Graham Philp discusses how the digital economy will help businesses diversify and tap into new markets.

What is your vision for the city?

My vision is to continue to promote Victor Harbor as a place of opportunity for business and a place for residents and visitors to enjoy a relaxed and comfortable life style.

In keeping with this statement, it is important that there are sufficient employment opportunities for all.
Victor Harbor has been an iconic tourist destination for South Australia and is known as one of the premier coastal destinations outside of Adelaide, attracting more than a million people every year.

How will technology help?

The City of Victor Harbor is a rural and residential area, with a growing urban footprint. Tourism and hospitality are important industries along with aged care services.

With the Australian Government’s roll out of the national Broadband Network (NBN), we have access to the fastest internet speeds in the country. This provides businesses with a competitive advantage as far as accessing new markets, diversification of services and creating business efficiencies through digital economy opportunities. These benefits are combined with an opportunity to live in a relaxed and welcoming city.

How will you develop your digital services?

We have introduced video call capabilities that allows residents, ratepayers and other stakeholders to engage face to face with Council officers without having to physically come into the Civic Centre. Similarly, our Council meetings are live streamed via our website, allowing people to become more aware of the issues being discussed by Council.

While we have introduced the use of mobile technology to assist officers working in the field, there are further developments underway to further capitalise on the efficiencies and opportunities this technology offers our organisation.

Our Council has also embraced digital technology within our city vibrancy strategy, with the installation of a permanent projector in the Main Street Precinct that displays spectacular digital art on to the façade of our art deco cinema. This is the first permanent infrastructure of its kind to be installed in regional South Australia. This initiative will help us to build upon our night-time economy, and provide the platform for digital artists across the world to showcase their work.

What has been the greatest innovation from the civil service?

The City of Victor Harbor’s work in renewable energy which commenced in 2009 is a great innovation.
Council facilitated a group purchase of solar panels right across South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. Known as the Community Purchase of Renewable Energy Program (C-PREP), it resulted in approximately 300 ratepayers across four council areas installing solar panels.

Every two years the City of Victor Harbor counts the number of panels installed in Victor Harbor. In 2010-11 the City was recognised by the Clean Energy Council as having the highest rate of solar penetration in South Australia – 25.9 per cent – and today penetration is around 43 per cent.

To further enhance our renewable energy program, the City of Victor Harbor has made a commitment to support the establishment of an electric highway which links Adelaide to the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. Electric vehicles are the largest sector of the evolving alternative energy powered vehicles, and the Electric Highway project aims to capitalise on this at the same time as establishing one of the first region-wide electric highways in the world.

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

Our biggest challenge was to continue moving forward with our main project: the Fleurieu Aquatic Centre. The design and construction of this Centre involves using all the latest technology available to reduce the impact on our environment. This includes using solar panels and construction design and materials. This will be opened in March 2017 with the main construction component at 80% complete.

What is your top priority for 2017?

To see the $21 million Fleurieu Regional Aquatic Centre project complete and open to the community.

Also for the coming year my priority is to ensure that partnerships are formed with State Government, private enterprise and education institutions, with an aim to redevelop Granite Island and turn it to a sustainable, environmental, and educational tourism facility.

What is the biggest area of spending for the council?

The areas of greatest expenditure for our council are roads construction and maintenance, parks and gardens, waste collection and disposal, library services and tourism services.

What city or country do you draw public service inspiration from and why?

We particularly draw inspiration from other regional coastal cities who face similar challenges to us. One of our most important relationships is our membership of the Australian Coastal Councils Association.

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

A trip to Granite Island across the 150 year old Causeway on board Victor Harbor’s iconic Horse-Drawn Tram is a must. Our tram service is the only one of its type in the world to operate year round.