By Matt Male

A FORMER journalist turned Bass Coast Shire councillor has hit the ground running.

Cr Leticia Laing, the only first-term councillor in the Bunurong Ward, is ready and roaring to go.

At her first council meeting, in December, she successfully moved two motions.

But where did she come from? And what’s got her passionate about Bass Coast?

Cr Laing grew up in Reservoir – about 12kms north of the CBD – before attending university and studying an arts degree and a law degree.

Early on in the law degree, Cr Laing realise she didn’t want to practice; she wanted to write.

Nevertheless, she completed the law degree and it bolstered her critical thinking skills.

Cr Laing was also the chief editor of the university’s student newspaper.

She then worked as a journalist in Kalgoorlie in WA before moving closer to her parents in Cape Paterson.

“We were going to stay one year.”

That was about five years ago.

She was also a journalist at The Great Southern Star based in Leongatha.

Fast forward a couple of years and Cr Laing made the decision to run for council.

And the councillor’s got a long to-do list which she’s eager to tick off.

One, she says, is the shared pathway at Inverloch.

“It was initiated two council terms a go. Let’s get it happening.”

Separately, Kevin Griffin, former president of the Bass Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association, has promised to donate $500 to the Salvos if the path is completed during this council term.

Another – and these are in no particular order – Cr Laing says we need to protect natural spaces through strategic plans.

For example, the Bunurong Ward councillor successfully moved a motion for council to develop – in partnership with the state government – an extractive mining strategy which takes into account

Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s declaration of the municipality as a Distinctive Area and Landscape, and “the community’s noise amenity, and the intrinsic environment and tourism values of the Bass Coast Shire”.

A further amended motion put to the council by Cr Les Larke to include “transport impacts” was also adopted.

And there needs to be significant movement on the former Wonthaggi Secondary College senior campus on McBride Avenue, otherwise, it’ll be “demolition by abandonment”, the solutions-based councillor said.

“There are some buildings that can be used quite safely.

“We need to do some significant community consultation to figure out what the community wants; it’s a really big space.”

Cr Laing also wants to see a permanent space planned for the library.

“Wonthaggi needs significant infrastructure investment and if we do that, we can actually protect the places that council always planned to be low growth.”

Part of that much-needed investment is a new aquatics centre in Wonthaggi, Cr Laing said.

Housing

But urban sprawl is a big issue, Cr Laing said.

“Our tourist economy is a huge portion of our economy and we need to protect that.

“There’s many reasons to protect our smaller communities… because they’re actually located in ecotourism hotspots.”

Cr Laing also campaigned for more social housing, so the recent state government funding announcement of $25m for social housing was most welcomed.

But, also on housing, Cr Laing said we need all our ducks in a row when it comes to planning.

“We can’t knock back subdivisions or developments just arbitrarily; they go to VCAT and they get approved.

“It gives the community no idea where we’re gonna go.”

So, what’s the answer?

“We have to address where the density is going to be and the infrastructure problems around that.

“Drains are boring but if your house is getting flooded every big storm, they’re not so boring… and that coupled with climate change.”

By the same token, the federal government needs to take more action on climate change, Cr Laing said.

The recently elected councillor concedes there’s always more the council can do and achieve.

“But that’s why we need to keep our communication lines open. They’ve invested a lot of money into ensuring every enquiry is followed up and you can chase it up and see where it’s at – every single enquiry.”

Cr Laing found early on that despite wanting to change everything overnight, it’s just not possible.
“We have to make every single cent matter.”