Local leaders: Preparing for a bright future

Working together: Shire of Murray president David Bolt has been selected as the chair of the Peel Regional Leaders Forum. Photo: Supplied.

Working together: Shire of Murray president David Bolt has been selected as the chair of the Peel Regional Leaders Forum. Photo: Supplied.

Over 140,000 people reside in the Peel region, across the local government areas of Murray, Mandurah, Serpentine Jarrahdale, Waroona and Boddington.

The region continues to grow in popularity with many drawn to its unique and distinctive lifestyle, rich heritage and beautiful natural waterways and environment. Over the past 20 years, the region's population has grown by over 100 per cent, over twice that of WA (45.2 per cent) and three times that of Australia (32.4 per cent).

Over the next 30 years, it is predicted to exceed 440,000 people. While much of the early growth was contained in a small area concentrated around Mandurah and the region's coastal suburbs, newer urban centres are rapidly expanding in Byford, Lakelands and Ravenswood.

High population growth coupled with an ageing population, limited education outcomes, lack of industry diversity, along with environmental decline have presented a unique set of challenges, putting pressure on health and service delivery, public transport, infrastructure and the fragile environment of our rivers and estuary.

While still lower than WA and the Australian average, employment and job opportunities are areas requiring attention, and that vary by local government area. There is a high reliance on construction, manufacturing, mining and retail. A large portion of the workforce regularly need to commute outside the region or are FIFO workers.

Addressing the opportunities and challenges will require collaboration, strong leadership and a commitment across all levels of government, as well as with key community organisations and industry, if we are to see the region continue to develop and prosper.

To this end an alliance was forged made up of the five local governments, Peel-Harvey Catchment Council, Peel Community Development Group, Regional Development Australia (Peel) and the Peel Development Commission (as observers), to focus on the region's future sustainability.

Known as the Peel Regional Leaders Forum, its members have recently adopted a common set of plans and objectives. Firstly, to reinforce, promote and enhance the identity of Peel, to ensure its retention as a region, rather than see it slowly morph into a collection of outer metro suburbs of Perth. Secondly to facilitate the economic development, ecological integrity and social well-being to benefit the people and environment of the region. Lastly, to encourage internal and external collaboration to develop and implement regionally beneficial projects.

Initial focus areas and projects include development of a regional Transport Plan focused on future freight, road and public transport needs. A health and well-being initiative with the aim of developing a holistic approach to providing better health outcomes and service delivery for all age groups. National and international tourism initiatives by promoting and upgrading our regional trails networks. Supporting and diversifying local businesses focused on the traded and export economy and supporting our agricultural sector and related industries in the development of new products and access to overseas markets. The development of the region's equine industry will also be supported, as a significant contributor to local jobs and economy.

Through collaboration, we can make the Peel strong, prosperous and sustainable. Working together, we will thrive and build a region for current and future generations to enjoy.

David Bolt is the Shire of Murray president.