Year in Review

Ross Fowler OAM

Monday, 21 September 2015

"In the past 12 months as Mayor I've been privileged to be part of some wonderful projects," Councillor Ross Fowler OAM said in his final Mayoral Minute. Cr Karen McKeown has been elected Mayor for the next term. Cr Fowler will serve as Deputy Mayor.

Mayoral Minute

I've watched our city continue to grow in a sustainable way. We've become more innovative, more culturally vibrant and are more prepared to meet current and future challenges.

It's been a privilege to work alongside the community, my fellow Councillors and staff to continue to improve financial stability and growth in our city and make Penrith a great place to live, work, play and invest.

We've made great strides in advocating for improved services and infrastructure in the past 12 months. In particular, our 2015 State Election campaign advocacy program yielded fantastic results, including:

  • a commitment of $12 million towards the construction of the Western Sydney Sports and Community Centre at Panthers,
  • a commitment of more than $1 billion for a Western Sydney Rail Upgrade Program to improve the current network and provide additional and faster services for the T1 Western Line including Penrith and Parramatta,
  • commitment of an additional 300 commuter car parking spaces at North Penrith, and
  • a commitment of $5 million to plan the widening of Mulgoa Road, from Andrews Road to Glenmore Parkway in conjunction with $70 million State and Federal Government funding for the Jane Street extension.

We joined with the Sydney Business Chamber and Liverpool, Parramatta and Penrith Councils to commission the Deloitte Building Western Sydney's Cultural Arts Economy report. Released in February, it prompted the state government to dedicate $30 million to arts and cultural funding in Western Sydney.

In the wake of the reports' findings, the state government also announced the allocation of $500,000 under the ClubGRANT, for audio visual and theatre lighting at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre.

How we can secure this funding for Penrith was the impetus behind the Mayoral Arts and Cultural Summit held this month. It brought together stakeholders from Penrith, the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains and aimed to find ways to strengthen this sector and to advocate for more equitable funding.

Our city continues to grow, with work forging ahead in all release areas and on major developments such the Penrith Panthers redevelopment, the Sydney Science and Technology Park and the Penrith Health and Education Precinct.

The Werrington Park Corporate Centre is now open, as is Penrith's first Smart Work Hub - both fostering local innovation and improving work-life balance.

In February we launched Penrith Progression - A Plan for Action. The culmination of extensive and intensive community consultation, it outlines 100 actions which captures a collective vision for the Penrith of the future. It demonstrates the collaborative, broad canvas approach Council is applying to all planning.

The Plan for Action has already sparked major development. When SHMH Developments bought the former Panasonic site in May, they cited our work to define the future of the city through Penrith Progression as a major factor in their interest.

We've also continued to act on the Our River Masterplan, enlivening the river precinct through a range of popular community events. We recently launched the upgraded playground at Tench Reserve and we've secured $187,000 under the Metropolitan Greenspace Program for stage 1 to plan for the upgrade of Regatta Park. Further, our state election advocacy also led to an allocation of $800,000 under the Regional Boating Plan for the upgrade of the boat ramp, parking and improved access at Tench Reserve.

The city has never looked better with new parks, playgrounds and fitness equipment for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy and new facilities for them to use. We've reconstructed fields and upgraded lighting at many of our sporting fields, improving them, to make them safer and to extend the hours of use.

We continue to work on our bushland and nature reserves through initiatives like the Cranebrook Wetlands and Bushland Regeneration Project and rehabilitation work at Werrington Lakes, Peppermint Reserve in Kingswood and Lincoln Park in Cambridge Park.

An independent community survey showed overall consumer confidence in Council is high.

We expect that the ongoing Capacity Review will continue to improve our productivity and level of service as well as help "future proof" our city.

Looking to the future, we've entered into a strategic alliance with the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains City councils. The alliance will allow us to better leverage economies of scale, efficiently use resources and maximise benefits for all our residents.

With another view to the future and as an important Regional City, we've called on the state government to include both Penrith and Liverpool councils on the Western Sydney Airport Project team. If we are to achieve world class aviation and positive urban and employment outcomes for the western Sydney region, we need cross-government collaboration and planning.

The promise of an airport in our region, the release of the Penrith Lakes Parklands Draft Vision Plan for public consultation and the launch of the Penrith Progression - A Plan for Action has intensified international interest in our city.

We hosted a delegation from the Xicheng District in China in March. The delegation met with local business representatives to explore possible collaborations and investment opportunities. We were also honoured to receive a memorial statue from the government of Xicheng in recognition of our Mutual Cooperation Agreement. Delegations from our Japanese friendship cities of Kunshan and Fujieda also visited Penrith in August to help us celebrate our Bicentenary.

There has also been a strong trend of community collaboration in the past 12 months. The Neighbourhood Renewal Program has, once again, allowed us to bring new life to well-established parts of our city.

I was thrilled to launch the upgraded playground at Callisto Drive Reserve in November last year. The project was a collaboration between Council and students from Cranebrook High School. The students were involved in every step of the process and designed a space that could be enjoyed by everyone.

In May I launched the Mayoral Challenge. We're working with primary and high school students in Colyton to reimagine and redesign the Barr and Bass Street Playground and in so doing helping those students learn leadership skills that will serve them well in their future. I look forward to seeing the results. Similarly, last month we launched Team Colyton to work with its community to bring about positive change.

We also established the Property Development Advisory Panel. The panel is made up of independent industry experts who we'll collaborate with to grow and maximise returns from our investment property portfolio and revitalise our two city centres.

On a city-wide scale we launched the Penrith Community Panel earlier this month. We will be working with 35 community members to define what services and facilities are most needed in our city and set out key priorities. It's an exciting opportunity for Council to work more closely with our residents on a broad range of issues to plan for the future of Penrith.

This local involvement initiative again demonstrates our collaborative, broad canvas approach to planning. I'm looking forward to hearing the Panel's recommendations.

The last 12 months has also been filled with important milestones. I was thrilled to be part of the recent 25th anniversary celebrations at the Joan, as well as those to celebrate Ripples 20th birthday in November last year. In April, we celebrated 125 years since the foundation stone of the electric light station was laid and next month we'll celebrate the switching on of the light. We also acknowledged the centenary of the ANZAC campaign with the Home Front Exhibition at the Penrith Regional Gallery and Lewers Bequest and by installing an informative "War Kiosk" in the library. Our community marked the ANZAC centenary through the incredible Poppy Park, which Council was proud to support.

Of course, for Council and our city, the most significant milestone of 2015 is the Bicentenary of Penrith - 200 years since our first government building was established. We've celebrated through a range of community events, activities and competitions that culminated in the highly successful community festival a little over a week ago. Other projects included the rehousing of the Bennett's Wagons at South Creek Park, our time capsule competition and the re-dedication at the site of the first building in Penrith.

It has been my privilege to represent the City as Mayor at the many community events that have taken place over the past two years. I've enjoyed the chance to meet with and listen to local people, and visitors to our city from all over the world.

It's been gratifying to watch Penrith further cement its place as an important Regional City and emerge as the capital of the New West and the Adventure Capital of Sydney. Council and our communities are uniting to carve out our unique place in western Sydney.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to preside over Citizenship Ceremonies where in excess of 1500 people from all over the world have been welcomed as Citizens of this great country and are proud to call Penrith home. We are an inclusive City welcoming all peoples regardless of their ethnicity or religion.  

Finally I'd like to thank Councillor Greg Davies the Deputy Mayor, my fellow Councillors, particularly those who have deputised for me when there were conflicting commitments, and Council staff for their support. We have all worked together to help deliver our vision and to improve the amenity and lifestyle of our City.

I look forward in the coming years to working alongside my fellow Councillors, and with the community to achieve our shared vision for the future of the city of Penrith.

Thank you an interesting and memorable year.

- Councillor Ross Fowler OAM

Information contained within this news release was correct as at Monday, 21 September 2015.