This month we speak with Simon Bradley, General Manager Infrastructure and Environment at the Rural City of Murray Bridge.
Simon speaks about his role, his thoughts for the future of Murray Bridge, how Mayors are not usually referred to as "your Majesty" - and how it feels to get back into competitive Cricket after a 23 year break....
Hi Simon, thanks for talking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
I am part of the Executive Team at the Rural City of Murray Bridge (RCMB) as the General Manager Infrastructure & Environment. I am responsible for the Engineering & Assets; Operations; Contracts; and Environment portfolio’s.
Where were you before and what attracted you to your current role?
I have been in local government for nearly 19 years plus a couple of years in private practice, both in Sydney and Adelaide. I’ve been with the RCMB for a little over a year. Prior to that, I was at the City of Burnside for over 14 years in varying capacities.
It was definitely time for a change after being at Burnside for so long. I had a great time at Burnside which gave me many opportunities and developed me to where I am today. I was attracted to Murray Bridge because I was aware of the exciting ‘Imagine Your Rural City 2020’ program they had recently undertaken. Actually, in 2011 the RCMB was awarded the LGMA (SA) Leadership Excellence Award – Partnerships for Growth. This program is all about imaging, dreaming, visualising and realising the future of Murray Bridge and its surrounds.
What is the most satisfying thing about working in Local Government?
I love the diversity of local government. The fact that on any one day I can be involved in a meeting discussing water allocations for the entire Murray Darling Basin and the next meeting you can be addressing the local Neighbourhood Watch Group about local traffic issues. I am encouraged by the quality of learning programs and career development options that allow local government employees to gain more skills and knowledge, move around an organisation, change jobs or fields, or undertake further study. I have taken advantage of these opportunities and encourage others to do so.
Speaking about your current role - How do you think Murray Bridge will change during the next 10 years?
While many regional centres are seeing people moving away, the RCMB is undergoing significant transformation and is expected to double in size over the next 30 years.
Council is currently embarking on a $14.7 million Stormwater Harvesting & Reuse Project which encompasses the Gifford Hill residential development, Murray Bridge race course sites, and the Murray Bridge township. The Scheme will collect stormwater from flood mitigation basins within Murray Bridge and transfer it to a site at Gifford Hill for treatment and storage, with future distribution to various locations within Murray Bridge for reuse.
Council is also realising the vision of the Murray Bridge Town Centre Master Plan. Specifically, for Bridge Street the project aims to reinforce the connections between the river and the town centre. For Sixth Street, the project aims to reinforce the cultural hub of the town, with the Civic Buildings and the Art Gallery being a focus. The overall goal is to provide an exciting, liveable, viable and vibrant destination and centre, activated by people enjoying and using the places and spaces within the streets.
How do you think Murray Bridge will manage the transition from a “country” town to a more urban role in the future?
Council wants Murray Bridge and its surrounding districts to have a sense of place, history, vibrancy and become an increasingly attractive place for people to live, work, play, prosper and visit.
The regional advantages of the area include the availability of relatively low cost land and proximity to major road and rail services. Tourism to the Murray River is predicted to grow 40% over the next 10 years with the opportunity to increase to 68%.
Gifford Hill is an 800 hectare greenfield site located in Murray Bridge which has been rezoned to accommodate residential, retail, recreation, community centres and public open space. Over 3,500 allotments are proposed as part of this development which is still in its initial stages and is a very exciting project to be involved in.
What’s the longer term plan – where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would like to have expanded and/or changed the portfolios that I am responsible for. I have experience in the planning, engineering and environmental fields, I would like exposure in community services and corporate areas. I am currently thoroughly enjoying the experience of a regional Council and am unsure if or when I will return to a metropolitan Council.
What’s your most embarrassing Local Government moment?
As many of you would be aware, a couple of years ago the City of Burnside was going through some tough times and was heavily scrutinised. It was a particularly tense Council meeting and I was being asked questions from the floor. As per protocol I intended to commence my response with “Through your Worship” however my mind was elsewhere and I answered with “Through your Majesty” (it was a female Mayor at the time). Before I had realised what I had said the members and gallery erupted in laughter. It was a very light hearted moment during a very intense time. However it was a mistake I hope to not make again.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of Local Government?
I have a passion for natural play. I am a landscape architect by profession and have been involved in the strategy and design of innovative playspaces for many years. Did you know that Australian children, an average, spend less time outdoors than the maximum security prisoners. This is scary statistics. There is a growing momentum in Australia to broaden the understanding of the traditional playground. A natural playspace is one that provides children with access to a range of opportunities that reflect the natural world. I spend a considerable amount of time promoting the benefits of natural play, especially exploring these spaces with my eight and five year old children.
I’ve also attended every day of the Adelaide Test Match (except 2 due to a Wedding) since 1998. I love to watch any form of cricket. Last year I returned to playing cricket after 23 years in retirement. I thoroughly enjoy playing again although my body takes a considerable amount of time to recover