10 August 2023

Mayor's driving the change to a more sustainable future

| Neil Reilly
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Kiama Mayor Neil Reilly standing next to his council electric vehicle.

Kiama Mayor Neil Reilly with council’s first fully electric fleet vehicle. Photo: Kiama Council.

I’ve recently taken to the road in our new mayoral vehicle, which is an electric vehicle (EV). This has prompted me to think about sustainability.

Pillar two of our Community Strategic Plan (CSP) is, “We thrive in a sustainable environment”. But what on earth does that mean?

“Sustainability” can be challenging to define, yet to me, it is very real. It’s a lens through which I view all issues. I consider sustainability to be an intergenerational contract – basically living life to the fullest without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same.

“Environment” is two worlds. One is the world around you, and the other is the world within you. So, I try to adopt a principle that suits each of those worlds, that is, “Think for yourself, act for everyone.”

Environmental sustainability is one reason that when it came time to choose a new car for the mayor’s position, I wanted it to be Kiama Council’s first fully electric fleet vehicle.

I know many in our community have already taken the step of purchasing an EV, and I have spoken to many more who are considering their options.

READ ALSO Kiama Council creating an inclusive environment for all members of the community

At Kiama Council, our net zero goals, as outlined in our Corporate Emissions Reduction Plan, are something we take seriously. My EV joins some hybrid vehicles in our passenger fleet and our new waste truck, which meets Euro V1 (6) emissions standards.

On other fronts, we’ve also upgraded our street lighting to LEDs to be more energy efficient, and we’re working with Endeavour Energy on a project to install the first community battery in our municipality – every bit helps.

Financial sustainability is a concept that we talk about a lot in council, and you’ll probably be aware that the councillors and I have made big decisions to help steer us back towards financial sustainability – we’re forecast to be back in the black by 2026.

Looking beyond our own books, economic sustainability involves Council helping foster a local and regional economy that promotes long-term stability and resilience.

In this area, we’ve recently launched our Signature Community Events Grants program to provide a better funding model for local festivals and events.

Cultural sustainability is another area Council works hard at. Preserving and celebrating cultural diversity is essential for sustainable development. Valuing and sharing diverse cultural heritage, traditions, and knowledge can enrich societies and foster a sense of identity and belonging.

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We recently hosted the regional NAIDOC Awards and in November, we’ll host a new event, an Indian festival, with input from the Kiama and District Business Chamber, the Consul General and the Indian community. It is shaping up to be a fantastic cultural, economic, and fun exchange.

Ethical sustainability: This aspect revolves around promoting ethical behaviour and responsible practices in all aspects of council life. As our midyear review showed, we have completed 18 actions and counting from the Hopwood report into Council’s governance systems and practices.

Recognising the importance of everyone’s wellbeing and emotional resilience as crucial components of a sustainable future helps build intergenerational sustainability. This is why I spoke to our Federal Member, Fiona Philips, who is working with us to establish a headspace here in our LGA, to provide additional mental health support for our youth.

Finally, social sustainability means focusing on creating urban and rural planning that is inclusive and equitable, where we plan for today, with tomorrow in mind.

This involves engaging with our community to ensure we understand our aligned vision and objectives. Our Local Strategic Planning Statement and Kiama Town Centre Plan go a long way to achieving development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Kiama Mayor Neil Reilly has represented the Kiama community as a councillor since 2008, including a year as deputy mayor.

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