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September 17, 2018

Lord Mayor Martin Haese on the notion the LM has no power

Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Martin Haese today announced he will not contest the next election. Before quitting he wrote this essay for CityMag's POWER edition.

  • Words: Lord Mayor Martin Haese
  • Illustration: Kate Gagliardi

Given the scenes recently emanating from Canberra and the vast column inches dedicated to the first change in State Government for 16 years, it is sometimes easy to overlook our third tier of government. This is unfortunate as councils often have the biggest impact on our everyday lives.

In many regards, the humble council is the ‘quiet achiever’ of the group; planting trees, collecting bins, keeping the roads and footpaths pristine and providing services which enhance the liveability of our towns and cities and assist businesses throughout our state.

For many, the image of the Lord Mayor may be one of the robes and chains: a Civic leader conferring new citizens at Town Hall (a great honour in its own right), but perhaps lacking the authority that other political leaders possess. However, the role of Lord Mayor is in fact much more dynamic.

With the City of Adelaide Council comprising 12 elected members, the Lord Mayor features as the Presiding Member in the Chamber, a role I consider colloquially as the ‘Chairman of the Board’. Rather than a position of unfettered power, the role of the Lord Mayor is one of influence. As with all political leaders, our power is derived from the communities we represent and the ability to influence and be influenced by them.

All Lord Mayors are different and in the period I have had the honour of holding this position, I have made it a strong priority to make partnerships a defining feature of this Council. I see this is as being vitally important, as it not only helps to mitigate the financial risks associated with projects, but it also gives an opportunity for community buy-in, increasing the likelihood of success.

Through collaborating with the State Government, Council has delivered many worthwhile infrastructure projects such as the upgrades to Topham Mall, Bank Street and rectifying issues with the Frome Street Bikeway. Additionally, we have seen numerous upgrades and enhancement projects throughout our beloved Park Lands.

Probably more than any other term of council in recent memory, partnerships with the commercial sector are also reaping benefits for the City of Adelaide. The deal entered into with TPG Telecom for the revolutionary Ten Gigabit Adelaide Network is a true partnership providing city businesses with the fastest data speeds in the nation.

Additionally, our Carbon Neutral Adelaide Network brings us closer to our sustainability targets, and importantly lowers operating costs for over 150 businesses, universities and community organisations through our partnership program.

Hellen Keller is quoted as saying “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”; and as I see it, the role of the Lord Mayor is to harness community sentiment and deliver projects.

If we are to learn anything from the recent events in Canberra, it is that merely attaining high office is not enough to provide power or guarantee results, instead I proffer that it is listening to the community and then partnering with them which provides the best chance of success.

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