Fresh direction from executive

Swan Hill Rural City Council’s two new directors share many similarities, yet followed different roads and landscapes to arrive in the Heart of the Murray.

Director of development and planning Heather Green was behind an initiative at Alpine Shire Council that saw snow making machines perched on the slopes, while director of infrastructure Svetla Petkova arrived in Swan Hill via northern Queensland, but is also a board member of the Southern Alpine Resort Management Board.

Ms Green comes to Swan Hill with a degree in town planning, while Ms Petkova has a PhD in fluid mechanics and two masters, one of which is law.

The appointment of Ms Green and Ms Petkova completes the full four-member executive team and an even ratio of men to women.

“From an Alpine environment to the Mallee is a significant change,” Ms Green, who has been in the role for six months, said.

“But while the environments are contrasting some issues are very much the same. Communities are similar in what they want from their councils — good value for their rates, good services and infrastructure and responsiveness to their concerns. My aim is to listen to the community and meet the community’s needs.

“We have discussed what will help economic development growth here, a place where people want to come to live and work.”

With tighter budgets, Ms Green said it was about finding savings so council could do more works.

“This is hard, but with any organisation, there is the ability to change practices and drive efficiencies to make savings and then put those dollars towards community uses,” she said.

“It’s about listening to the community about what they want, because there are services we have to deliver and things we want to deliver.

“We will work to provide these services and infrastructure the community wants and get the best value for every ratepayer dollar.

“Things like making sure parks and gardens and facilities are good, people moving here want to have access to childcare, play sport using good facilities and enjoy great services. If we do those things well, it’s a big part to ensure prosperity and success of all towns across the council area,” she said.

Ms Green said recent changes to the operations of Pioneer Settlement had seen patronage numbers increase, while council would continue to work on the shortage of housing in Robinvale in 2018.

Ms Petkova, who hails from Bulgaria, was enterprise asset manager for 12 months at Isaac Regional Council, which covers close to 59,000 square-kilometres of fertile plains, beaches and coal mines in the Bowen Basin.

And before working in local government, Ms Petkova spent 10 years in the water industry in Victoria in asset management, project delivery and engineering.

Her first impressions of the Mallee have been positive.

“In my short time here I have really enjoyed the community spirit, in comparison to the transient and fly in fly out population in my previous role,” she said.

And when discussing her new role and what she sees as key focus areas, Ms Petkova said improving the way council maintained and managed buildings would be a big focus this year. 

To read more about this story, grab a copy of Friday (January 12) Guardian.