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 Simon McMahon, Candidate for Mayor of Onkaparinga.
10 Questions Council Election
- Where do you live? What attracted you to where you live?
My family are lifelong residents of the south. I live in Seaford Rise with my wife and two boys. Seaford Rise attracted us due to the open spaces and connected communities, it’s also incredible to live so close to the coast and be right on the doorstep of an unbeatable wine region.
- What’s your political background?
I was elected to the South Coast Ward as a councillor in 2018. In 2019 I served as Deputy Mayor, and in 2022 as Acting Mayor. I have chaired Strategic Directions committee, ICT Reform committee, Audit & Risk committee and was part of the Australia Day Awards panel.
- To which community groups or associations do you belong?
Seaford Rotary and Seaford Lions.
- If elected, what will be your priorities?
Continue the work restoring faith in our council, remain on course to deliver a strong and balanced Long-Term Financial Plan, and build stronger community interconnection including support for our volunteer organisations in their work
- What are your policies regarding the environment and biodiversity?
Build on our strong record of achievements including delivering our Climate Change Response Plan 2022-27 which has 79 actions and clear strategies to mitigate the risks of climate change, read more about this plan by visiting OnkaparingaNow.
- Do you think the City of Onkaparinga should re-visit declaring a Climate Emergency?
I believe action is stronger than words.
We need to keep on track with delivering tangible outcomes. We have more work to do to build on our existing work in this space, including delivering our Climate Change Response Plan 2022-27, and reaching our goal of 25% tree canopy target to reduce urban heat and cool our suburbs.
During this term of Council, the City of Onkaparinga secured funding for Mt Bold Reservoir to protect against the increasing environment events including flooding. We secured the establishment of a 5-hectare oyster bed reef that is already showing signs of coastal rehabilitation. We also worked closely with neighbouring councils to establish Australia’s largest household recycling facility, and just recently we increased the number of electric vehicles in our fleet, reducing our impact.
- How can Council accelerate decarbonisation within the community?
I believe there needs to be more support for local businesses and entrepreneurs to access incentives for the creation, development or utilisation of innovative solutions to reduce their footprint.
On the other hand, access is a big incentive for residents who are looking at greener options. For example, providing strategically located charging stations in our city can equally promote uptake of electric vehicles whilst attracting day visit tourists travelling to or through our region who may not have without this infrastructure.
- How would you make Onkaparinga a better place to live with less resource consumption?
I am proud of the work we have done investing in our circular economy including increased green organics collection. When I ran for the South Coast ward as a councillor, this was a key promise I made to residents. I was pleased to bring this motion to Council and see it adopted for the benefit of our community and our environment. Previously over 30% of refuse going to landfill was food waste, I hope with this change that number has reduced significantly.
Building on this, during this term the City of Onkaparinga, the Southern Materials Recovery Facility (SMRF) was constructed as part of the Southern Region Waste Recycling Authority (SRWRA). SMRF is a state-of-the-art facility that can process up to 60,000 tonnes of yellow bin recycling materials each year.
I want to build on this by bringing in industry to complete the circular economy with a vision of your household waste being used in products that will benefit the entire community, including roads, bollards and benches from plastics, rubber and glass to name a few.
- How would you, as Mayor or Councillor, aim to influence Elected Members to be effective decision makers?
Elected Members have an important role as local decisionmakers who are connected to their communities.
In my view, the Mayor’s role is to ensure Elected Members maintain respectful and healthy debate in the Chamber when making decisions on matters that are important to the residents they represent. I don’t believe influencing the outcome of debate is appropriate or beneficial to our community. We are greatly benefited by having a strong local-level democracy.
The Mayor can act as a conduit between Elected Members and staff. One significant responsibility of the Mayor is to ensure relevant and accurate information is being presented to Elected Members for them to base their debate and decisions, and in turn to ensure the message of the Chamber is well communicated by the organisation.
- Do you have ideas for championing improvements in the energy efficiency and lower resource footprints of new and retrofit development, both domestic and commercial?
Utilising the limited levers council has in this space, one example of what we have achieved in this area is exemplified in the Aldinga development and the Aldinga Structure Plan. We worked closely with RenewalSA and the State Government, to both advocate for and achieve a plan for the new Green Star for Homes standard OR minimum 8-star NatHERS rating for the development. This includes good property design, solar, accessibility to transport, water sensitive urban design, functional opening green space for community wellbeing, and biodiversity and habitat creation.
Once this is delivered, we hope this can be a blueprint to be used for future developments, not just in the City of Onkaparinga but as an example for other South Australian councils.