CEO reflects on 19 years

AFTER 19 years at the helm of the Bass Coast Shire Council, CEO Allan Bawden will retire from the top job this Friday, February 14.

All done: outgoing Bass Coast Shire Council CEO Allan Bawden is finishing up this week.

All done: outgoing Bass Coast Shire Council CEO Allan Bawden is finishing up this week.

During his career, Mr Bawden has faced some major challenges, the first of which came as he stepped into the position.
“I came here just after all the local government amalgamations and was appointed by the three commissioners to set up the organisation,” he said.
“The task was to bring together all the involved municipalities in the new shire.”
Mr Bawden had to build a functioning organisation from the three municipalities of Phillip Island, Bass and Wonthaggi, and sections of three others, gaining Inverloch from Woorayl, Wattle Bank from Korumburra and a section from the Cranbourne Shire.
“We had to bring together people from four different workforces. There were six different planning schemes we had to administer for about five years,” he said.
“If you think it is confusing having one planning scheme, try when you have a handful of planners and have six to administer it – it is really challenging.”
The first year of the job, 1995, was about designing a new organisational structure.
“This was hard because pretty much every position was declared vacant and people had to apply for their job and there were a lot of people who didn’t get jobs,” Mr Bawden said.
“The next task was to integrate the various services because you had the same services being provided by a number of councils in the past, and there may have been different service levels and different ways of doing it. In some cases you had contractors and others in-house staff, so there had to be a rationalisation project which took a while.”
After establishing the Bass Coast Shire Council and settling with service providers and other important local government matters, Mr Bawden was faced with an unexpected challenge at the turn of the century.
“We were fortunate when we were going through that development stage the economy was just coming out of recession so things were picking up slowly, but by the end of the ’90s the ‘sea-change’ phenomena had kicked in,” he said.
“From about 1999 to 2000 and onwards, there was a massive increase in population and a lot of development like residential housing in the first instance which was later on followed by commercial development.
“I think councils everywhere were a bit caught out by that, so I think the challenge then was really to respond to that growth with the sort of services that had to expand to meet the new demand.”
Managing the development of all these new residents and their developments prompted one of the council’s biggest achievements.
“Since the year 2001 we have spent a lot of time and money on the land use strategies and we have also got detailed structure plans for every one of our towns with set town boundaries,” Mr Bawden said,
“In the coastal towns especially, we have been able to ensure the community understands there are firm town boundaries and the community will not just be spiralled along the coast.
“We also have a firm boundary between the towns and the rural areas while allowing enough space to grow but not endless growth.
“We have encouraged some of the higher order growth and the regional services to come into places like Wonthaggi where there is a lot of land and no constraints.
“I think that has been a great investment and we have great planning policies in place I think the community are pretty happy with.”
Another career highlight for Mr Bawden was how the council, under his leadership, made it through the debate and construction of the Wonthaggi Desalination Plant.
“It divided the community and the council, and I had to find a way through while dealing with all the issues it brought up,” he said.
“I think at the end of the day the plant has been built, but I think we were able to do it to minimise the inconvenience to our community and brought with it some great economic benefits during the construction phase.”
Mr Bawden said he was proud of his achievements at Bass Coast.
“As a CEO, the chance to set up a new viable organisation that is now financially sustainable and made up of some really good staff, really capable people doing really innovative things and delivering a wide range of services to the community, is fantastic,” he said.
“I think the future for Bass Coast is a pretty rosy one. The kind of population growth we have had will continue; it will be an attractive place for retirees and people who want to move to a coastal lifestyle.”
Mr Bawden will miss interacting with people every day in the position of CEO.
“You have your staff and the councillors but also the people in the community, and I guess you will have to build strong relationships with government departments and other councils because we rely on working together,” he said.
“Probably the group in the community I most admire is the volunteers, because like in most communities, we couldn’t operate without the energy and enthusiasm of all the groups that contribute.”
Mr Bawden will continue to live in Inverloch and says it will be hard not to take notice of what is going on at the council.
“You won’t find me sitting in the gallery,” he laughed.
“But I will be taking an interest in the shire and its development and I will be happy to help in any way I can.”
Mr Bawden’s final day in the job is this Friday, with his replacement Paul Buckley taking on the role from February 17.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=9982

Posted by on Feb 11 2014. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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