This month we caught up with Kristen Clark, Director of Infrastructure at Whyalla City Council about his role, the Leadership Excellence Awards and the project that was recognised for Excellence in Infrastructure Delivery.
What is your role and what does it involve?
My role is Director of Infrastructure, at the Whyalla City Council. It involves being responsible for all of our outside workforce which is around 48 people. They cover parks and gardens, civil works, waste and recently leases and licenses have also been added.
In addition, it involves providing leadership to our capital delivery and environment crew which comprises another 10 staff.
Whyalla City Council are finalists in the Excellence in Infrastructure Delivery Award category in this year’s Leadership Excellence Awards for the New Whyalla Jetty Project – can you give us an overview of the project?
The original Whyalla town Jetty was built in the 1970’s. During a periodic inspection the piles were found to be in poor condition which led to the Jetty being closed to the public. Initial plans were to replace the jetty “like for like”, but after consultation with the community we received lots of feedback that called for all kinds of ideas. Council ran specific Jetty consultation sessions and from that, the final design for the uniquely shaped Jetty came about.
The new Jetty extends 35m further into the sea than the old jetty, is twice as wide and 1.5m higher than the old jetty (to take rising sea levels into account). The circle in the middle of the jetty is 48m wide, so almost as wide as an Olympic size pool.
Concrete in marine environments is typically reinforced with high tensile steel which provides a useful life of approximately 40 years. A key decision made early in our planning was to use glass fibre reinforced plastic instead which is stronger than steel, but does not rust, which is commonly known as “concrete cancer”. The glass fibre was a little more expensive than steel, but effectively doubled the useful life to 80 years, making business case much stronger.
Steel from the old jetty pylons were recycled through the local GFG steel works.
Perhaps another feature of the Jetty is the LED lights in the handrails. It’s a nice solution that’s very different to the traditional overhead fluro lighting that would have been easy to install but wouldn’t have had anywhere near the impact. Have you seen any photos of the Jetty at night? As the sun sets, the LEDs turn the jetty yellow, orange, blue and finally a deep purple. It’s a whole other experience at night.
Why did you enter the Leadership Excellence Awards?
We made the decision to enter the Leadership Excellence Awards for a number of reasons. As a council we are coming out of a period of difficult years. We saw the Jetty as the first project or sign that demonstrated we have turned the corner and were aiming to proactively move the Whyalla City Council forward in a number of areas, especially our “liveability”.
Also, like many councils we know we do not celebrate our good work, so we were keen to enjoy and appreciate all the work that went into the Jetty and use it as a model for other projects that council looks to implement. We are very focussed on ensuring great work continues and promoting this work will help all of us here at Whyalla stay focussed on delivering great outcomes for our community, which is what they deserve.
Now that all has been revealed and Whyalla City Council were announced as the winner of the Excellence in Infrastructure Delivery Award last Friday, what does this award mean to the Council, staff and the community?
It’s great for the Whyalla City Council to be recognised for delivering “excellence”. Building such a unique Jetty was a brave decision by our Mayor and Elected Members. It was a real vote of confidence in staff that we could deliver something so different from what we normally work on. I think it shows that Whyalla can and deserves to have first class facilities, and that if we aim and plan for more, that we (council) are more than able to deliver.
The community is super happy to have their jetty back, and with all the attention it’s attracted, people can see that its been a great addition to our town. Hotels are booked out on weekends now due to the amount of tourist traffic. Everyone is benefiting from the Jetty.
I know council staff are all very proud of the Jetty and we are we are very appreciative of the good news story that we have!
What would be your advice for others thinking of nominating for a Leadership Excellence Award in the future?
I think nominating for an award is a very worthwhile process. If nothing else, it can be a good way of reviewing how a project went after completion. As a group we had a few laughs as we remembered the journey! But it was also good to recall what we did well and what we’d do differently next time. Nominating for the award made all of us critically think about the project, which was nice.
Whyalla is determined to move forward and improving our liveability is one of our top goals, being one of the final 3 projects nominated was a great way to promote our city. And as you know, even a little bit of recognition can do wonders to motivate people. So, to win was something else!
What is the most satisfying thing about working in Local Government?
Working in Local Government can be difficult. I’m biased but working in Infrastructure can be particularly difficult! Our work is so public, and our staff are literally on the front line, in front of people’s homes, that we do get occasional feedback! The critical environment does help pull a team together though, a bit of “us against the world”. I love seeing members of our council team do great work under difficult circumstances, and the satisfaction they take away when we have our wins.
I love the passion that people have right across council and councils, in each person’s field. Councils are very diverse places. Its motivating. I’m relatively new to local government and the sense of comradery and willingness of other councils or council employees to help has been overwhelmingly positive.
I was told before working in local government that it was “a different field altogether”. Now that I am on the inside and have worked for a few different councils, I can say that it is different, in a good way.
Finally – what do you enjoy outside of work? How do you spend your leisure time?
Camping has always been our family’s thing. About 17 years ago we decided we wanted to drive every dirt road in Australia, and to camp at every beach. So, travelling particularly remotely, has been a focus.
I used to do a few fun runs each year, but I’ve switched over to the mountain bike now. A group of 6 of us are riding the Mawson Trail, which runs from Blinman to Adelaide, about 900km. We’re doing it in two- and three-day segments and are aiming to finish it by the end of this year.