A new leader and five new councillors don’t mean a new direction for Goulburn Mulwaree Council, according to the newly elected Mayor Cr Peter Walker, who wants the momentum and cohesion of the past term to continue.
“We have five new councillors,” Cr Walker said.
“If you sat down and assessed every single one, in my opinion, they all have things to bring to the table. In most ways they are all professionals, either qualified or strong on their community base. I think the opportunity here is to have a very, very good council. We had one in the past; we have taken another step forward,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to working with the general manager, Warwick Bennett, which I have done with [former mayor Cr Kirk] Bob for the last five years.”
Cr Walker’s journey to mayor has been challenging and eventful.
Cr Walker’s resolve to make the most of every opportunity redoubled after overcoming two bouts of life-threatening brain surgery in 2005 and 2011. His doctor had explained his pituitary gland played a critical role – the body’s control tower – and that removing a growth on the gland the first time wasn’t enough.
“They said it will probably grow back and it did,” he said.
Six years later, in 2011, the second procedure was completed. Five years after that second round of surgery at St Vincent’s Hospital, he nominated successfully for Goulburn Mulwaree Council. He arrived in time for an unprecedented surge in infrastructure projects, became Deputy Mayor and won a ballot 5/4 to become Mayor.
Recovering from his six-year health ordeal and the stress of it crystallised his thoughts.
“You have two options: deal with it and move forward, or sit at home with your hands under your butt in a lounge chair and waste away,” he said. “That’s certainly not my style.”
He is grateful for the support of his family.
“My wife Cath and son Tom are my backbone,” the 64-year-old Mayor said. They live about 20 kilometres from town on 16 hectares where they have chooks, a few sheep and dogs. Cath has a farm background from Parkes, while Peter grew up in Albury and had been on farms with his parents.
“That lifestyle is your relaxation,” he said.
Cr Walker said he has the drive, initiative, capacity and contacts to fulfil the role of mayor. Now retired from the workforce, he is a former chief executive of the Goulburn Workers Club and previously had worked in banking, including a two-year stint in the 1970s at Taralga. The family moved to Goulburn from Geelong 19 years ago. After the Workers Club, he worked for earthmoving and haulage firm Denrith, managing Goulburn Sand and Soil.
On the boards of Endeavour Industries and Goulburn Family Support Services, and previously St Joseph’s Primary School (where Cath teaches) and Trinity Catholic College, Cr Walker says his interest in civic affairs goes back to his family.
“I am an Albury boy originally. My uncle was the general manager of the Border Mail newspaper and was always into community organisations, whether it was the Mercy Hospital or fundraising. I am passionate about U3A [University of the Third Age], working with Pat and Brian Spilsbury [secretary and president respectively of U3A Goulburn] ever since they came to town when I was at the Workers Club and the Community Centre.”
Cr Walker says Goulburn has many positives, including the expanding Health Hub.
“The expectation is they will try and build a private facility at Bradfordville as a hospital, similar to Bowral’s, and people would not have to travel. There are a lot of professionals out there now who service the medical industry,” Cr Walker said.
Goulburn’s services sector was growing strongly, attracting more services, and new residential subdivisions’ Teneriffe’ and ‘The Tillage’ were rapidly filling with new homes and council’s planning department was assessing more subdivisions.
Cr Walker said he did not think the council needed to be concerned about developers spoiling the rural or historic amenity of Goulburn. “If you looked at it that way, you would never probably progress, he said. The council’s urban development strategies provided for a mix of future development.
“You don’t want to be an industrial warhorse,” the Mayor said. “You need to have and promote industrial areas and get the people and bigger industries to provide the employment so the housing side grows. Developments like the [residential] Toparis ones at Mary’s Mount are bounding ahead.”