As the end of West Tamar councillor Richard Ireland’s first term approaches, he reflects on his past term as councillor and explains why he’s very keen to stand again.
In October he will ask the voters of West Tamar to re-elect him as councillor and for the first time, as deputy mayor.
He takes some time to share his reasons for running in 2014 and why he was elected on his first attempt. He puts his success down to the nature of local government politics:
“The council elections are very personal - there’s no big campaign budget, and often people will only vote for you if you’ve spoken to them face to face at some point,” Richard said.
“I honestly believe I was elected because over 30 years in West Tamar I’ve come across a lot of people and I suppose people remembered that as a positive experience and voted for me.”
So what’s on the to-do list for the next four years for Richard?
“If I’m elected deputy mayor, there will be new challenges,” he said.
“I think I’ve got the experience now to take that role on and to step in for the mayor when required. I’ve always been able to dedicate as much time as necessary to the job, and I think I also have the ability and energy required.”
The conventional thinking is that the council only does the three ‘R’s’ – roads, rates and rubbish. But Richard thinks it can do more.
He wants to encourage businesses to locate in a new agri-food precinct on the council-owned land alongside the Legana Park industrial area:
“West Tamar is famous for its farm produce and wine,” Richard said.
“What better place to bring it all together in a producer precinct where ideas can be bounced around, at the same time as bringing tourists and locals to a new attraction.”
He thinks Legana will be where the most visible changes will occur but also mentions what makes West Tamar special:
“The on the ground changes in Legana are really exciting,” Richard said.
“It’s satisfying that, having done the planning, the council is now taking action.
“Legana has grown quickly and has a busy shopping centre, but now it will also have great new community facilities. The rural parts of West Tamar have always had a really strong sense of community, and it’s important that this is encouraged in Legana.”
How can this be achieved? Richard believes that developers have too long told new home buyers what they want, rather than asking:
“New housing options in Legana need to reflect the diversity of the population – single houses yes, but also something for people who want a smaller, high amenity option within walking distance of the town centre.”
Richard goes on to discuss the West Tamar Highway, which is a vital link.
“I want more people to be able to shop and work in Legana, but of course people still need to get into town too. The highway wasn’t designed to handle the traffic it does today,” he said.
“Expensive, large-scale upgrades of the highway may be the answer, but they may also take a long time to happen…the road is a joint responsibility with the state government…in the meantime; new thinking can improve the situation.
“A park and ride could be an option for many people and avoids having to park in town. And with fewer cars on the road, the run into town will be quicker, without expensive upgrades to the highway. A high occupancy vehicle lane - for cars with more than one person onboard - could work too.”
Before being a councillor, Richard founded emergency warning light company Hazard Systems in 1987. Richard sold it in 2003 at which point it employed 50 people and had won many awards. An old employee came up to him in the street recently, 15 years since he sold the company:
“He still worked there and thanked me for taking a chance on him all those years ago. It’s nice to have a financially successful company, but things like that are what really make it worthwhile,” Richard said.
Richard’s engineering background gives him a unique insight into the council’s infrastructure issues and projects. He was instrumental in getting a footpath started on Rosevears Drive and supports the proposed park at Biloo Street in Exeter.
One of his first priorities was to have the council reduce its energy use by instigating an annual energy audit and recycling is a particular interest. He is also the council’s Taswater representative which has unique challenges.
When he’s not on council business, Richard is involved in the Launceston Chamber of Commerce, the Launceston Film Society, Tamar Valley Writers Festival, Farmgate Festival, Neighbourhood Watch, CORES (Community Response to Eliminating Suicide), Seniors Advisory Group and many community groups.
Between commitments, he and his wife Gill like to travel, usually fitting in an annual overseas trip between council meetings.
Richard is also a member of the council’s audit committee:
“The audit committee is a good example of how a lot of the work the council does goes unnoticed,” Richard said.
“We run a fine-toothed comb through finances, purchasing, that sort of thing. We also engaged an external auditor, to make sure we’re on the right track. Nobody likes paying rates, but it’s nice to know it is managed responsibly.”
And Richard’s got one more promise:
“Christmas with Friends will be the best ever this year.”
Richard organises the West Tamar Council funded event with his wife, Gill.
I honestly believe I was elected because over 30 years in West Tamar I’ve come across a lot of people and I suppose people remembered that as a positive experience and voted for me.Richard Ireland