Interview to Carol Adams | Mayor of Kwinana
For more than a decade you´ve been the Mayor of Kwinana. With less than 30,000 inhabitants, what are the main challenges for a population like this?
The City of Kwinana is located on the outskirts of our capital city, Perth. It is known as an ‘outer metropolitan growth area’ and is home to over 43,000 residents.
According to the Bureau of Statistics Census data, we are the second fastest growing metropolitan council in Australia. It has been estimated that one new family moves into our City every 11 hours. Our population is set to double by 2030.
The population growth comes from two specific areas. The first is housing affordability. Kwinana attracts many first homebuyers and young families because it is economically viable to purchase a home here. The City offers our new residents a good variety of education choices with well-resourced public and private schools within our municipality, as well as excellent community, recreational and sporting facilities.
The reason for our steady population growth is also migrant resettlement. We have become a very multicultural City over the past decade with a diverse migrant population, the majority of whom come from India, the Philippines as well as the United Kingdom.
The challenges for ‘growth councils’ such as Kwinana is to continue to provide and maintain the high level of community infrastructure we currently do; as well as provide dedicated ‘place making’ services so that community members feel connected to the area in which they live.
We are traditionally an area of high unemployment (in excess of 20% youth and 11% adult), so one of our main challenges is to seek ways to stimulate economic development opportunities that, in turn, will lead to job creation.
How does Kwinana, solves the waste collection and recycling?
The City does not have a dedicated landfill facility so our municipal waste is sent to a neighbouring council’s facility in Rockingham.
We provide our residents with two ‘white goods’ and four ‘green waste’ bulk kerb collections each year as well as weekly general waste (green top bins) and fortnightly recycle bin collection (yellow top). The City also provides a free upgrade from a 240L recycle bin to a 360L bin for its residents.
We employ a dedicated team whose role is to educate the community on ‘recycle right’ initiatives, aimed at teaching residents how to correctly separate at source and therefore divert household waste from going into landfill.
Kwinana is a member of the South Metropolitan Region Council (SMRC), whose stated objective is to deliver innovative and sustainable waste management solutions for the benefit of its member communities and the environment (see https://smrc.com.au/).
The City is currently reviewing its waste strategy to improve the current service level to our community. There has been some debate in the community in relation to our white goods bulk collection methods in particular, and how can the City improve this service.
What are the expected changes the new “waste to energy” facility you´re building in Kwinana will bring to your city?
We believe that waste-to-energy (WTE) is an important part of a modern integrated waste management system and appropriately sits above ‘landfill’ in the waste hierarchy. We anticipate that the new WTE facility will also assist us in improving our recycling and waste management initiatives.
The facility will enable items that would ordinarily go to landfill be diverted to the facility for burning. This provides two practical solutions for the City. The first is the management of non-recyclable waste disposal and the second is the generation of a renewable energy supply. Once operational, “Avertas Energy” will have the capacity to generate 36MW of electricity
As the host council, our City is proud to be home to what will be a landmark facility that will bring visitors from Australia and overseas to learn more about WTE, its benefits, and how it contributes to a more sustainable future. The facility will also provide an economic boost to our local community, with employment opportunities during both construction and operational stages.
When you undertake these major projects, what is the relation of the local authorities with the Spanish companies?
Acciona is the company contracted by Avertas Energy to build the WTE facility. As a local authority, our role is one of planning approval only. The City’s role does not extend to the award of the contract to build the facility. That decision is solely at the discretion of Avertas Energy via their tender or expression of interest process. I am aware however that the Spanish company Acciona is a leader in providing sustainable solutions for infrastructure and renewable energy projects both in Australia and internationally.
What did you like best about this visit to Spain?
There is a well know saying, “You never get the second chance to make that first impression”. In that regard, Spain did not disappoint!
I found the areas of Spain visited were quite diverse - from the bustling metropolis of Madrid with the most beautiful architecture and entry statements, to the lovely quaint town of Logrono and then to the revitalisation of Bilbao, which very much has undergone a similar journey to the City of Kwinana, albeit on a much larger scale.
One of the highlights was learning more about the Spanish culture. Before the forum, I must admit to having a limited knowledge (other than knowing about bull fighting, the running of the bulls and the famous Flamenco dancing). Although Kwinana is a multicultural community, our Spanish population is small.
I found everyone who I interacted with was warm, friendly and extremely helpful, and very dedicated to improving the waste services for Spain.
What I did like best about the visit though, was the variety of organisations that we visited and the amount of effort and resources devoted to improving the lives of the residents via a raft of environmental sustainable initiatives, many of which I will be discussing with my council. I was comforted that Spain is front and centre of research, development and innovative technologies and projects that will ensure a sustainable future for its residents.
The SACF brings together companies and institutions to foster the relation between Spain and Australia. How do you think that relation can be strength?
Reciprocal ‘economic development tours’ and information sharing and collaboration between Spanish and Australian businesses could assist to strengthen the relationship, as it will be built on mutual respect for each of our strengths in the areas of study.
While the population of Kwinana is small, it is home to Western Australia’s premier heavy industrial area, which has direct and indirect employment of over 30,000 people and contributes €10 Billion to the WA economy. The success of the area is a story of international cooperation, with multinational companies and local companies working together for mutual success.
The Kwinana Industrial Area is the world leader in Industrial Symbiosis, where the manufactured and waste products are traded as commodities between the industrial plants. The advent of this is perhaps due to the relative isolation of Western Australia and the rest of the world, however this now demonstrates to other large industrial estates how they can become more efficient and more economical through collaboration.
The presence of European and Asian companies in the industrial area is recognition of how Western Australia’s diverse mineral wealth is critical to most modern technologies supply chains, as well as the stable government and legal protection in Intellectual Property. With Western Australia’s growing investment in battery metal development and marine defence technology, there remains a range of opportunities for Spanish companies who have shown leadership in these area.
A distinctive characteristic of the SACF is the public-private collaboration. How is this collaboration in the waste management area? Does it work?
The role of waste management in Western Australia was, until recently, almost exclusively run by government.
However, over time, local government have recognised the benefits of public-private collaboration to best deliver waste management outcomes. The partnerships have moved past simple landfill solutions. We have actively sought to understand the different technologies and waste stream options available to us as a City. Critical to the success of our journey was the early education through tours and literature of the potential of WTE plants.
While the City could then see the benefits of such technology, particularly in managing environmental emissions and impacts through the incineration technology, the private sector would not be able to pursue this without the support of local government.
The role of local government in this case was to provide guarantees from the private developer that suitable waste streams would be provided to the proposed plant. This in turn presented a robust business case to make financing of the private provider possible. This type of contractual arrangement can also help the City in its long term financial planning, by providing certainty for future costings and by allowing us to focus more resources on recycling.
The City recognises the immense positive outcomes from public-private collaboration, which has given us a sustainable waste management outcome and one that meets our social, economic and environmental needs now and into the future.