When City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Cr Kim O’Keeffe saw a desire for change within the greater Shepparton, she knew it was time to join the Council. Cr O’Keeffe is also Deputy Chair of Regional Cities Victoria and has been living in Shepparton for over 50 years, during which time she has developed well-established businesses. Kim is determined to utilise this business experience and love of her region to act as a strong voice for Greater Shepparton.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself. Why did you decide to join Council and become Mayor?
I was elected to Council in October 2016 as a first-time councillor, so it was a very new experience for me. I came in as Deputy Mayor in my first year and I am currently in my second year as Mayor of Greater Shepparton City Council.
I became a Mayor because I really wanted to do more for the local community as well as take on a stronger leadership role. I could certainly see the community was looking for change within our council and I see my role is to continue to support the community and the people.
- How would you describe your personal vision as Mayor for Greater Shepparton?
My vision is to really shine a bright light on the region and the opportunities that we offer. We have La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne here and we are looking at more opportunities in that space, including education planning for secondary schools. We also have quite significant opportunities to expand, with our universities bursting at the seams and we would like to give more of our young people the opportunity to live in Shepparton while completing their studies.
Access to health is also incredibly important, we are currently in stage one of our hospital upgrade and we have lobbied for stage two funding from the State Government. We also have a radiologist ready to go, which will give people living in Shepparton the ability to use a service which they previously would have needed to travel to Bendigo or Melbourne to access.
With the growth of a region comes needs and one of those is our Bypass to cater for the ever-increasing trucks coming through our region. We were very pleased to see the Federal Government announce $208 million for stage one of our Bypass, which is a significant investment in the growth of Greater Shepparton.
- What are the challenges faced by Greater Shepparton City Council?
The budget and rate capping is always a challenge, but I feel we are doing really well covering all the daily needs of running a region.
At the moment Council wants to open up the CBD with a $16.4 million investment opportunity to improve the function and visual amenity of the Maude Street Mall. This will mean introducing one-way traffic with additional off-street parking, as existing car spaces are often quite full and people like to park close to all that our CBD has to offer.
- What are the social values held by the community?
We’re a very multicultural community and we’re certainly known across Australia for coming together as we celebrate our differences in culture and history.
We actively try and boost our community up and encourage people across our community to be proud of who they are and what they offer the community. It is very important to us that we consider how can we work together and create even better opportunities for each other.
- Main growth opportunities for the City of Greater Shepparton in the long-term?
We are in a very exciting stage of progress and opportunities. We have become the regional sporting capital, attracting national and international sporting events with our recently completed $21 million dollar sports city precinct. This has led to incredible economic benefits and future opportunities for Shepparton.
We’ve recently attracted a $30 million investment with a medicinal cannabis facility looking at coming to Greater Shepparton, bringing 75 new jobs to the regional city, with the potential to increase the facility and jobs available in the future. It is still subject to planning commitments, but the project has progressed, with some land secured.
We went into Federation Square in April last year and transformed Fed Square into ‘Shepp Square’. It was great to share the success, unique opportunities and way of life that we lead here in Greater Shepparton.
Work is also starting on our magnificent new Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), which will be a $49 million, five-storey building right at the gateway of Shepparton next to our lake. SAM will be a significant landmark and destination that increase our visitation and tourism opportunities.
- Why did greater Shepparton decide to join RCA?
It is a huge networking opportunity to share and discuss the aspirations and needs of our region and be a voice for regional Victoria. There is an opportunity across the country and internationally if we all come together as a collective to learn from each other’s successes and strive towards a shared vision.
With that comes prosperity, but I think lobbying is a very important and obviously Regional Capitals Australia has strong recognition and presence in that space.