with Wudinna Mayor Eleanor Scholz
How long have you been Mayor of the Wudinna District Council? Mayor since 2013 and as an elected member (Councillor) from 2000.
What are some of the great things about the Wudinna District Council area? Our people who work together to make our district a great place to live and visit. The relaxed lifestyle, living within an hour of the beach or the Gawler Ranges. We have some great natural features, Mt Wudinna, Pildappa Rock, Tcharkulda Rock, Polda Reserve to name a few. Our community has good health care, education and retail services for a small population, along with sports, recreational and community facilities and I love our half Olympic size swimming pool, although some of these facilities are aging!
What interactions have you had with local mining or exploration companies – including Iron Road, who are developing the Central Eyre Iron Project? Our Council has been involved with mining and exploration companies over the years including granite quarrying with investigation into onsite manufactured products. Other explorers have included gold and uranium. Since I’ve been on Council we and the wider community have been kept informed by Iron Road from their earliest days of exploration. All in the community have had the opportunity to attend focus groups, community information updates and workshops. Iron Road established an office in Wudinna where people could call in for information or to discuss ideas and concerns.
What do you think are some of the benefits of having mining in the backyard? An opportunity to increase our declining district population, which is important to maintain and grow our local services and business. The Eyre Peninsula would benefit from an alternate long-term industry. Our Council Community Plan has an objective of seeking another industry to support growth and development for our region, along with creating local career opportunities. We would hope to see increased patronage of our existing businesses and recreational entities, job and training opportunities, improved infrastructure such as roads, rail and airport. It would give people local employment options and career paths – not just in mining but in a variety of support services. A good working relationship with mining in the back yard has potential to provide improved access to services such as communication, power and emergency services. At this point it is understood that if the Iron Road project goes ahead the local airport would be upgraded, service roads sealed, a railway line constructed to a new multi-use port facility. We cannot overlook the benefits to farmers of a shared rail to port grain freight service. Locally, we will have opportunities to work together on improved and increased facilities for our community. ISSUE 05 RESOURCING SA Summer 2016
What are some of the challenges of having a proposed mine in the backyard that your council has encountered? The biggest challenge (in regards to Iron Road’s project) is that the large resource is on farmland. We feel for families that have been living with this and acknowledge their uncertainty of loss of the family farm, splitting land holdings, what living next to a mine will entail, workforce competition, concern of change and living with stresses of the unknown. For local people affected by this we understand when they are asked ‘what would make it easier’ and the reply is ‘just make it all go away’.
Have you heard much feedback from community members about having a mine in the region? There has been a focus on ongoing engagement with the community and all opinions have been valued by council. While some are upfront and actively oppose development, others are quieter. There has been commentary, both pro and anti-mining from outside the district also. Community members have appreciated the community meetings that have allowed them to gain information and quietly encourage us as a Council to keep working towards the best outcomes for our wider community. We have feedback from some who want to see the mining project underway and encourage us to keep working towards partnership outcomes. Some of our older citizens who have faced many changes advise us to work for the best for the wider district. Not all of our people are publicly outspoken.
Do you think resource sector activity is compatible with agriculture? What about its compatibility with tourism or a regional lifestyle? I believe the resource sector can be compatible with agriculture. Both industries are consumers and have common needs. As land is rehabilitated we may not see results immediately and the agriculture may not be what we currently know, it could be different sustainable products, it could be revegetation projects. A multi-use port with rail freight options will be of huge value to farmers across the region. Through our CCC meetings we did look at opportunities for tourism and mining to work together and were given examples of possible projects, including tours, viewing platforms and outdoor activities. The lack of an air service to Central Eyre Peninsula is an inhibitor to tourism and encouraging a rural lifestyle in our region.
Do you have any advice for other councils faced with the prospect of mining or petroleum as a new industry within their region? Listen to understand. Communication is key. Sharing information between all stakeholders, from the resource company, landowners, community leaders, key interest groups and residents within the community. Rumours become prevalent, always refer back to the correct information source. We found some people like detail, others are happy with an overview and just want to know when something happens. Use all mediums for dispersing information. Use of focus groups and forming a CCC is useful. These types of projects do not come quickly – patience, tolerance and respect for all and a deep breath helps.
The Summer 2016 issue has a focus on the resources industry and our South Australian community.