Nicole Wilson’s role is all about planning for the future. And she loves it. As Manager Integrated Planning for Western Australia’s Shire of Murray, Nicole develops the strategic community plans and corporate business plans needed to ensure the Council delivers the best outcomes for the community – today, and for years to come.
When Nicole started with the Council 10 years ago as a Trainee in the Office of the CEO, she couldn’t have imagined she’d be doing this role. In fact, it didn’t even exist.
Nicole comments, “Although I’d had a little exposure to local government, I never thought there would be the opportunity to do the type of role I’m doing now. I think people think Council is about rates, roads and rubbish – there’s just so much more opportunity for different career paths here.”
She adds, “We’re constantly diversifying and evolving, there’s so many plans for the future – it’s really exciting.”
The Shire of Murray’s strategic community plans are developed through consultation with the community. This ensures that the Council is fulfilling the needs of the community, in its role as local government.
Nicole explains, “Community feedback is gathered in several ways. Perception surveys are used to capture a range of feedback from different age groups, and the Council’s Place and Community Development Teams are constantly liaising with the community to understand current issues and needs – they’re a great channel of information”.
When the Council is due for a major review of its strategic community plan, it holds workshops with all of the major towns in the area.
In her role, Nicole then takes the strategic community plan and creates a four-year corporate business plan. She explains, “Our strategic community plan is about finding out what the community wants from the council for the next 10 years. We then take that plan and create a four-year corporate business plan that outlines the projects and actions that we’re going to implement to achieve the goals of the community. And it all links back to the budget, what can we afford? We create a long-term financial plan – making sure we’re accountable to the community”.
A BALANCING ACT
Right now, Nicole is focussed on creating the 2021/2022 corporate plan and budget. This includes consulting with other departments within the Council to understand what assets require maintaining or renewing in the coming year. The Shire of Murray manages a huge variety of assets – from footpaths and roads, to parks, waterways and community buildings.
Nicole comments, “We’re working out what works plans will be put in place for the year ahead, and how much money we need in the budget. We have to balance and prioritise what needs to be done, with what the community is asking for”.
FORWARD THINKING, PROGRESSIVE SHIRE
Nicole grew up and went to school in Pinjarra and she finds it exciting to see the Council’s projects coming to fruition. She comments, “The Shire of Murray is a really forward thinking, progressive shire. It’s really exciting to be a part of it. And now I understand the work that goes in behind the scenes – the business planning through to project execution might take 10 years! It’s really satisfying to watch the process”.
One of the projects that Nicole has been watching with interest is the restoration of the Exchange Hotel in Pinjarra. Once a thriving establishment, the heritage listed building had been left empty for many years, creating an eye-sore on Pinjarra’s main street.
Acting on feedback from the community, the Shire of Murray has been slowly restoring the beautiful building and is now planning to develop the site. Nicole says, “The project began when I started with the Council 10 years ago. It’s driven by the community and within our budget, we’re working to create something really special for Pinjarra”.
It’s clear that Nicole is passionate about the Shire of Murray, its people and the role that she plays in delivering a future-ready region that will thrive for years to come.