Increased population a balancing act

Latrobe Mayor Mike Gaffney is not surprised that the population of his municipality is increasing. Picture: Isabel Bird

Latrobe Mayor Mike Gaffney is not surprised that the population of his municipality is increasing. Picture: Isabel Bird

As part of her ongoing series, the Sunday Examiner's ISABEL BIRD catches up with Latrobe Mayor Mike Gaffney, who will soon be stepping down from the council.

UNLIKE other smaller municipalities across the North and North-West, the Latrobe Council area is experiencing rapid population growth.

With this brings enhanced responsibilities and a different set of challenges.

Latrobe Mayor Mike Gaffney said the area, including Port Sorell and Latrobe, has fallen in the top three percentage growth areas in Tasmania for the last several years, with Port Sorell being a major focus.

He said the eastern half of the North-West Coast should remain a major focus for development and services in the future.

"It is a beautiful area and we have had huge interest from developers. While that creates opportunities it also creates issues ... it is that balancing act between the environment and progress," Mr Gaffney said.

"There were difficult decisions to make, but I'm confident we made the right decisions."

The mayor of 12 years is about to step down from his role on council after 21 years due to changes in the Local Government Act that prevent him from acting as both mayor and the Legislative Council member for Mersey.

While Mr Gaffney will remain a sitting member in Parliament he is disappointed by being forced to relinquish his mayoral role.

"I understand why, but at the end of the day I think it is up to the community to decide ... I think I still had about seven years in me, [as mayor]," he said.

Mr Gaffney said he hoped the municipality remained an affordable place to live and continued its positive momentum into the next decade.

"The rural sector is really important. We have some innovative thinkers - the Shima Wasabi farm, Nichols and the horticultural industry, and the Wesley Vale Irrigation Scheme also works in our favour.

"There is also a lot of energy at Port Sorell [which should continue], with the Mersey Hospital also having an important role in the area.

"I think people underestimate the eastern end of the Coast. It is a growth area."

Mr Gaffney believed amalgamation of Tasmanian councils was "possibly inevitable".

"We resource share a lot with Kentish Council ... I think the community is more accepting of resource sharing with Kentish than they would be about amalgamation with Devonport.

"Devonport have done a terrific thing with their Living City strategy, but if that is their focus then what does that mean for Port Sorell or Latrobe if amalgamation were to occur?"

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