Local government plays a huge role in protecting and preserving the environment, and The City of Onkaparinga has a strong tradition of introducing positive measures and initiatives based on environmental and sustainability issues.
For that reason, a number of local environmental and community groups have contacted all the candidates standing for Mayor of Onkaparinga City, as well as those standing in the Southern Vales and South Coast Wards, to offer them the opportunity to introduce themselves to our collective membership, and to let us know where they stand on a number of key environmental issues in the City of Onkaparinga.
Each candidate was given the same ten questions to answer. Here are the responses of Moira Were.
10 Questions Council Election
- Where do you live? What attracted you to where you live?
I live in Sellicks Beach. I moved here a few years ago to be closer to my daughter and her family. Prior to that I lived in Willunga and before that lived in Port Noarlunga South – all in all about 30 years. I came to the southern suburbs for its affordability and to raise a family, be close to beaches and be part of a growing community. I am still here doing the same with the next generation.
- What’s your political background?
My politics have always been centred around four social justice principles – access, equity, participation and rights with responsibilities. I have been politically active in my community around issues of domestic violence, child protection, housing, poverty, homelessness and refugees. I joined the ALP more than 30 years ago.
- To which community groups or associations do you belong?
I received an Order of Australia, an AM in 2019 for my community service to many community organisations. I am a life member of Volunteering SA & NT Inc
I am a current member of
- Social Impact Investment Network of SA (Current chair)
- Australian Institute of Company Directors
- McLaren Vale Hospital
- Willunga Farmers Market
I am a founder and member of Chooks SA (facebook community) and founder and Director of Hen House Cooperative (community cooperative working on closing the gender investment gap).
Please refer to https://www.linkedin.com/in/moirawere/ for more details about my credentials and organisations I have been a member of over the years.
- If elected, what will be your priorities?
My first priority as Mayor will be to work with elected members to appoint a CEO. We will develop a contract to meet community expectations around: climate and sustainability, value for money, financial management, community engagement, future, procurement for local jobs and new economic opportunities (eg in the circular economy), transparency and integrity in decision-making.
- What are your policies regarding the environment and biodiversity?
I am committed to doing what I can to bring a First Nations lens to environment and biodiversity decision-making. I will be working with Council’s First Nations Advisory Group and seeing how we might go deeper into practices and policies such as cultural burning, revegetation and regeneration. I will be encouraging councillors to build deeper relationships with existing environment groups, so that first-hand knowledge and experience is added to the science and engineering we have in place. We need to understand our region as a bio-sphere and work with our neighbouring councils around water and waste management and consider what might be possible around energy. We need to increase our canopy and maintain the biodiversity we have and start to showcase more the unique and valuable environment we have in Onkaparinga.
- Do you think the City of Onkaparinga should re-visit declaring a Climate Emergency?
Yes. Where we could have been a leader, we are now playing catch up. The State government has declared a climate emergency, the Federal government is passing legislation for a third of our land to be conserved. It is not going to be enough to declare an emergency. The City of Onkaparinga has some brilliant initiatives especially around coastal management, climate protection and waste management but need to dig deeper and go further. I would like to see what else we might be able to achieve through procurement, partnerships and collaborations with our neighbouring councils, and other spheres of government. There are other opportunities to be created through design and grant criteria. I want to reward what is working well so others can learn and this includes keeping the Mayor’s Community Gardening competition and extending it to include measuring things like soil improvements, community participation, and contribution to food security.
- How can Council accelerate decarbonisation within the community?
The first step is to get a baseline of our own emissions and then set targets to reduce through our own efforts and in partnerships and collaboration with others – business, government, and our neighbouring councils. We can’t do this alone. At the community level I know there are a number of people who have approached me who are keen to be prototypes for micro-grids in their local community to see what we can learn and how we can decrease our household contribution. This is a learning edge for me and while I was involved in Future Energy Week with Flinders University last year and will be again this year, it is an area where I have no technical expertise. I would be inviting others to provide the leadership and guidance and my role would be to support getting a range of voices to the table, expertise and creativity to see what is possible and the most effective role for local government.
- How would you make Onkaparinga a better place to live with less resource consumption?
The non-renewable resources of water, energy, gas, electricity are all part of the business of Council – we are both consumers and producers of these resources. I would like to set some targets for the Council as an entity and then for us as a community – so we can all contribute and be famous for our efforts. I would like us to learn from others around the globe but also to tell others about our already good efforts and bring people here to learn from us. Many of the efforts have been community-led and we could be showing others how to do this too. I am interested in testing some ideas for community wealth building and resource management such as regenerative farming for bushfire safety, habitat and animal haven corridors; supporting our citizen scientists to partner with programs in our parks, gardens, community centres and libraries to see what opportunities and efficiencies can be created.
- How would you, as Mayor, aim to influence Elected Members to be effective decision makers?
Leadership is all about setting the culture. I will aim for a chamber that is educated and informed and have access to all the information and data to support them in making quality decisions that are fit for the future. I lead by example and aim to bring everyone along which means setting the conditions for quality debate, compassion and consideration. Leadership in the chamber is not about the ego of one person or even two, we need to focus on who we are governing for, this generation and the next and the next. Our decisions also impact not just on our species but on others as well. We have some unique flora and fauna in Onkaparinga and need to remember them in our decision-making. I would like to see more transparency in Council minutes so all voters can see which way their elected members voted and have meetings live streamed – these two initiatives would support a culture of transparency, which in turn I expect would support more effective decision-making. Councillors need time and good processes to support them in their decision-making and I will be making good use of the workshops that are held for this purpose where there are constructive deliberative methods being used and not just cart loads of indigestible information. I am an experienced community engagement facilitator and know a lot about how to get to good decisions. I was the Global Director of the international peak body for public participation and that foundation would be put to good use if I was elected Mayor.
- Do you have ideas for championing improvements in the energy efficiency and lower resource footprints of new and retrofit development, both domestic and commercial?
I do have some ideas of my own, but as I said above this is not an area of technical expertise. We do however have many people in our community with these skills and knowledge, and some of them are on the staff, others in business and in community organisations. I will be looking to them for advice. The co-founders of Adopt-A-Spot would be one of the places I will start, after having a briefing from one of those co-founders recently I could see potential to harness the expertise, knowledge and community spirit to take some of what they are doing to scale. Imagine if our whole Council area was single-use plastic free? Is that something we might aspire to? Also we have one of the world leading engineers in water management and wetlands design, living in our city and he recently gave a deputation to the Council opposing the sale of the water assets (I also oppose the privatisation of these assets) and I would look to him for advice on how best to convene the next steps. Commercialisation of some of our natural assets and reducing our footprint through eco-tourism, cultural tourism and heritage walks are small and sustainable ways forward that could be linked to some of the Councils other programs (eg Youth Enterprise). I will be championing partnerships and collaborations and being explicit about the role the council can take. Hosting awards and recognising excellence and finding ways to get our businesses supported to get the impacts at scale will be a constructive way to champion improvements.