Councillor profiles - Athina Pascoe-Bell Mayor City of Palmerston

Article image - Councillor profiles - Athina Pascoe-Bell Mayor City of Palmerston

The City of Palmerston is a municipality of around 37,000 people, just 15km south of the City of Darwin. Twenty-five percent of our population isunder 14 years of age and 76 percent are under 45. This makes us different to the rest of Australia, but also different to Darwin and other towns in the Northern Territory. This is why we are known as ‘the family city’.

I first joined the City of Palmerston in 2015 following a by-election, and I have been mayor for 18 months. Like most people I have spoken to about their reasons for joining Local Government, I was extremely disappointed with many council decisions and the apparent lack of forethought behind decision making.

I had previously been involved in lobbying activities in support of community action on specific issues which were quite successful, and I was encouraged by close friends and my husband to run in the 2015 by-election. I haven’t looked back.

The job can be difficult with a young family. I am often in the office or attending community events late into the evening and all weekend. My husband works shift work, across seven days of the week and 24 hours of the day, but I do enjoy the work that I do.

Good grounding
Prior to becoming Mayor, I had been a public servant for 15 years in both New South Wales and Northern Territory, however, I resigned from the public service in order to focus on being mayor.

I had spent most of my career in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, specifically focused on data, data analysis and system management.

My years as a public servant were a fantastic basis for understanding the role of governments, good governance and policy development and established a strong foundation for the way I believe any public service should operate and service the community.

I am also studying towards a law degree at Charles Darwin University. I have found that the foundations of law meld perfectly into understanding the principles of good governance required for any organisation, and particularly in the decision making of a council.

Outside of Council, I have been involved with the 1st Palmerston Scout Group for the last few years, since my children joined, and I am currently the chair of the parent support committee. Our family chose Scouts as we are keen campers and enjoy the great outdoors, particularly in the fantastic climate of the Top End.

People’s forum
The City has a relatively modest budget of around $40 million per annum but we are very proud of the services and facilities we are able to offer.

Development of the City of Palmerston Community Plan has been a highlight. Following the 2018 election Council needed a new strategic direction and we wanted something fresh and innovative. As a group, we were prepared to take risks and decided to use deliberative democracy to formulate our (strategic) community plan.

Placing our people in the centre of the decision making meant that we have a direction formulated by our community, for our community, rather than just the opinions of the elected members and senior executive.

The Community Plan has set some fantastic targets and challenges for Council which we are pleased to have been progressing in the short time that we have been working on it.

Smart sustainable city
The City is currently rolling out a $3.65 million Smart LED public lighting upgrade to the entire municipality. This includes around 4700 street and open space lights.

We hope to save $650,000 per year on maintenance and running costs, and use the savings to help roll out additional public lighting in areas of community concern and deficient lighting.

We are also delivering a $2 million Smart Cities and Suburbs program including CCTV cameras, Smart Bins, Public WiFi, environmental monitoring and other smart technology.

We’re also proud of working together with the Northern Territory Police and Government to deliver additional CCTV cameras for improved community safety.  

Additionally, we are mounting Solar PV systems on our Council facilities. The library and recreation centre are both hoping to see savings of around 35-40 percent, with Civic Plaza scheduled next. We are also upgrading lighting within these buildings to LED to further reduce consumption of electricity.

Our municipality’s environment is continuously dry for at least five or six months of every year, and we are strongly reliant on a local aquifer and potable mains water for the watering of public spaces.

This makes water management our next major challenge in
environmental sustainability.