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Amalgamation Special

Think Local

Dee Why town centre, Manly Oval, Andrew 'Boy' Charlton Swim Centre, urban density, rezoning, roads sea walls, preserving the environment - this is what the community is talking about in the aftermath of Premier Mike Baird's amalgamation.

    Niki Waldegrave takes a look at the issues behind these community changing projects, and speaks with the movers and shakers charged with their stewardship.

Council administrator Dick Persson was out walking his dog when he got the call from Premier Mike Baird offering him the Administrator role for the Northern Beaches Council.

   The former council Administrator of Warringah from 2003 to 2008 brings a wealth of experience from more than 25 years in Local Government. As well as being the Director General of the Queensland Department of Housing. Local Government and Planning and, later, Queensland Department of Health, he also served as the NSW Director General of the Department of Public Works and Services. He also recently completed a three-year term as the Chairman of Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority In August 2014.

    He says when Mr Baird called offering him the role, "He was very flattering about the job I had done before, and asked would I be prepared to come back into service?

  "I came back home and said to my wife, 'I think I'm going back to work.' I have to say, I'm really enjoying it."

   Mr Persson spent the first few weeks of his tenure re-familiarising himself with the Northern Beaches and its residents, Including deftly dealing with the Armageddon-like storms that smashed Collaroy and Narrabeen.

  "If you're in a position like mine," he explains, "it's Important to try and understand the issues, and to see and hear from the people first-hand. Particularly in the company of council staff so you can actually hear them discussing issues - pros and cons - even argue a bit.

   "Then I can get a much faster feel for the issues - because when there is a problem, its usually because the solution's hard. If it was easy, someone would have fixed it. I've never thought that that was possible, to keep everybody happy.”

    Although Bronte resident Mr Persson is, "Eastern Suburbs born and bred', he's actually responsible for the Dee Why Town Centre Masterplan, which was borne out of his former Administrator role in 2003.

On buying a sandwich for lunch and finding nowhere nice in Dee Why centre to sit down and eat it, he laughs, "I came back to the council and asked the planning manager, ‘ What's the plan for Dee Why?’ They showed me and I said, 'That's not a plan, that's a recipe for disaster!'

   "The only way of making a proper town centre for people to enjoy, and particularly given all those home units that the council had agreed to all around it, was to basically trade the airspace for the ground space.”So, in offering those high rises in the centre the council was able to win back a huge lot of the town square; shopping streets and internal spaces that will hopefully be really charming. And there will be more car parking. I believe people will be really delighted once it's finished."

On his achievements

 When asked what his proudest achievements are, he hesitates, and says, "I've had a wonderful career with lots of opportunity. I don't have too many individual things I'd point to but I have an Order of Australia.

     "That was given to me in recognition of the innovation I brought to policy development in a range of areas, like housing, local government planning and electronic commerce. I've just really enjoyed a chance to work in the public sector at the top level and help governments of the day achieve lots of things - but I am really proud of Dee Why, both what we've done down at the beach and also the town centre, because that was tough going. I think people will be pleased."

Prior to being elected to Council, the Dee why-based former Mayor of Warringah had spent 18 years working in Local Government planning and delivering multi-million dollar budgets and supervising hundreds of staff.

   As Mayor, Mr Regan led the council to deliver on increased services and invest over $100 million on capital renewal of public assets, all while maintaining a healthy surplus in the budget.

   Of the current projects, he says, “We're doing some great capital projects. Dee Why town centre is going to be a destination for locals; the town centre Is underway, there's a great shopping centre and some wonderful restaurants and shops. It will very much complement what Manly does, but adding a different element. And the PCYC (Police Citizens Youth Club) will be a great legacy.

    "The Narrabeen Lagoon Multi-Use Trail is a Sydney jewel, with more than 20,000 a month using it. There's the synthetic sports field at Melwood Oval in Forestville - and the hub we're building around the Glen Street Theatre is fantastic. People have been waiting 18 years for that to happen, so it’s very positive."

    Mr Regan admits he's proud to have been involved with some, "great legacies projects from the former award winning Warringah Council. He reveals, ”What I'm most proud of professionally are the capital projects, the culture within the community and staff collaboration. It was instrumental in the success - and the trust - that we had.

      "It takes time and patience, and mistakes are made, but we got there in the end. And that was due to the innovative local government management structure. It resulted with the local government telling us we were constantly in the top three of regular things you tick boxes in every year, like asset management and financial. We were over-performing."

     The Dee Why resident hopes to weave these successes through the thread of the new Northern Beaches Council.

     “We all want the best for our community, village or suburb," he adds. “It’s got so much opportunity and benefits going and we all want the same thing - so let's all work together. Let's get the business community involved, the local community groups involved - it helps set the tone for the new council."    

Lifelong resident Jean Hay AM has served the community for 29 years and became Australia's youngest Mayoress In her late teens.

   She's been the Mayor of Manly twice, from 1999 to 2004, and 2008 to 2016, and of her almost 30year tenure jokes, "it’s almost equal to three murders!'

      Mrs Hay is still heavily involved with Bear Cottage, the only children's hospice in the state, and is on the committee. She's also the patron and chair of other charities and was recently bestowed as Benefactor of the Children's Hospital Westmead.

     “I'm just as busy as I was as Mayor, “She tells Peninsula Living. "Last week I was out every night at something!"

     When I ask her what the reaction to the amalgamation has been, she jokes. The first question people ask me now is 'what do we call you?’ I just say, 'the old grey mess - she ain't what she used to be!”

High jinx aside, Mrs Hay has been championing the controversial new 500 space car park that Is being built under the Manly Oval.

     The complex is part of the Manly2015 Masterplan, which also incorporates the redevelopment of the Whistler St Triangle in the heart of the suburb, to demolish the decrepit old car park and build a new multipurpose complex.

As well as a new, Light-filled community state-of-the-art library with glass lift and rooftop gardens, It will also feature a twin cinema, business and residential areas retail and outdoor spaces.

    However, it's being not with fierce opposition and last month the Administrator bowed to pressure from activists protesting against the car park, examining a 115-Page submission from the Save Manly Oval Alliance.

    Mrs Hay is hopeful everything goes to plan, “because it's going to be a wonderful outcome for Manly.”

 She continues, “Unfortunately, there's been some really vicious scaremongering over the last four years. Some opponents claimed there would be a $90 million debt. But in actual fact we're going to have a surplus because Abergeldie Complex Infrastructure, who won the tender, gave a fixed price of $27.8 million to build It. “And the leasing of where the Whistler St car park is now... it's a very ugly eyesore, and in this day and age you would never ever plonk an ugly thing like that in the Whistler Street Triangle because that is actually the heart of Manly.

   “This new car park will take all that traffic congestion out of the CBD. We're getting a cash payment of $37.5 million, so the cost of the Oval car park is going to be well and truly covered by the development In the Whistler Street triangle. It's probably going to be the best looking building on the Northern Beaches. a hub of activity for local groups and organisations. Plus look at all the benefits the community will get."

The Andrew 'Boy' Chariton Swim Centre it opens to the public this month after its $19 million facelift.

   She says there's going to be huge cost savings in energy, because the cogeneration plant that was installed supplies all the energy throughout the building, including the heating of the pool, lighting and air conditioning.

     “It's a self-funding project," she adds,” and another good thing about it too is that it will not impact one iota on the rates. Really its just amazing. People are champing at the bit to get in there."

Mrs Hay is rightly proud of her accomplishments, including upgrading Manly Corso and the suburb's ageing infrastructure, especially in the Ocean Beach area. She's is also excited about revitalising the laneways and arcades, which she compares to Melbourne's.

    When I ask Mrs Hay if she'd like to stay on the Northern Beaches Council after next year's elections. She smiles, “Yes, most certainly - it's in my blood now.”

As the Deputy Mayor of Pittwater, Mrs Ferguson says she initially wasn't sure of throwing her name into the hat to be Involved In the new council, especially as Pittwater Council had been opposed to the amalgamations, but felt she owed it to the community.

   “Some people were like, 'You might be seen as a traitor',” she says, "but I said, 'what happens if none of us stand? I look at it this way, 'if you want to have a say, you've got to have a seat at the table’.

    “I was honest and said, 'I can't walk away.' These people elected me to be their representative."

     Pittwater residents have always liked Newport-based Mrs Ferguson, who would love to run again for council, because she's approachable, chatty and speaks to residents in layman's terms. She's also passionate about the environment and maintaining the community feel.

    "My main focuses are our waterways, waste and sustainable, appropriate development,” she adds.

"Development will always be a passion of mine - that's how I came to council in the first place, fighting against a developer. I'm not against progress at all as long as it falls within the local environment plan."

   She says residents' main concern on the northern peninsula is just to insure the environment is looked after, and that there's appropriate and sustainable development that benefits the area.

    "I actually asked, and was lucky," she adds, "to receive the Environment Chair and I'm going to make sure our waste is well looked after. It breaks my heart when really good items aren't getting reused and recycled.

"We must get people in a good mindset of recycling because it's so important. We haven't got a never-ending date on our landfill, so we're looking at new innovative ways to do this -and not just with recycling."

    Mrs Ferguson is championing new ways to recycle bulky goods like mattresses, and is also encouraging local restaurants and cafes to use reusable coffee cups and sustainable packaging instead of one-use plastic crockery.

    "There are a lot of environmental people up here," she adds, "that have enough clout to realise that things like this might be slightly more expensive, but it's worth it. If we can do a name and shame, or promote things, like, 'Hey, get your coffee down at 2KF Cafe in Mona Vale because they use the cups that can be recycled', the rest will follow."

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