People Stories

Building an outcome-focused culture at MidCoast Council

Author: Careers at Council

Read time: 4 min read

Introducing Gary Mead – Executive Manager Liveability and Sustainable Development, MidCoast Council

The core mission of NSW’s MidCoast Council are to add value and build trust with the community. And that is exactly what Gary Mead, Executive Manager Liveability and Sustainable Development sets out to do each day. His goal is to empower and inspire his team to deliver for the community; to be problem solvers and think innovatively to create positive outcomes.

Gary comments, “For me it’s about having the courage and confidence to step outside of the traditional local government view point. The safe place is sticking between the lines, you need to be brave enough to be innovative – to be problem solvers. So rather than just pointing towards the rules, you need to be able to work together to get an outcome. It’s very rewarding because you feel like you’re starting to make a positive impact on the community”.


Gary leads the teams of people responsible for the region’s built environment – large and small-scale development applications and everything related to these applications including environmental health considerations such as on-site sewage, food safety for restaurants, pollution impacts, underground fuel storage systems for petrol stations – a whole network of services.

Because of the unique geographical features of the region, the scale and scope of work is both impressive and challenging. Gary explains, “We’ve got everything here; pristine coastline, rivers, estuaries, lakes and at the western edge we’ve got snow on Barrington Tops.” He adds, “It’s a highly desirable place to live and work. We could be dealing with floods, bushfires – there’s definitely challenges. We are exposed to so much with the development applications we’re working with, which build expertise and capacity in our staff. The work is incredibly diverse.”


For Gary, an integral part of creating an outcome-focused culture has been to better understand what the community – his customers – need from the council.

Gary explains, “I think in the past we’ve assumed we know what our customers want. But when you dig deeper you can see that different people need different things from us – like the larger building companies have a different set of needs to the ‘mum and dad’ builders. With high volume builders, it’s all about timing, whereas the smaller builders want a relationship – they want to know who is coming to site from council and have a working relationship.”

He continues, “We’re proactively engaging with the industry, attending Master Builder forums and presentations. We’ve identified gaps and speed bumps in our application and lodgment process and we’re working to fill the gaps and speed up process.”

As a result, a fast-track team has been set up to deal with the more straight forward development applications at speed. Most recently this team processed an astounding 200 applications in nine days, of which 52 were dwelling houses.


Gary began his career in council with a traineeship as a Health and Building Surveyor at Sutherland Shire Council, where he worked for four and a half years. He then took up an opportunity to work for Great Lakes Council before it merged with MidCoast Water, Greater Taree and Gloucester Shire Councils to become MidCoast Council.

He’s since replicated the trainee model at MidCoast Council, recognising the amazing learning environment that it offered. Gary comments, “At Sutherland we had 30 health and building surveyors all working together – it was diverse and a really good introduction to different areas of local government and how they worked.”

Gary studied at TAFE at night to complete an Associate Diploma in Health and Building Surveying. And although it was hard work holding down a normal 9-5 job and then having to jump on the train to go to TAFE at night, Gary believes it made him a better practitioner.

“The combination of practical work supported by the theory learnt as part of my qualification was invaluable,” Gary says.

When asked what he finds the most rewarding about his role today, it’s very much about his team.

Gary comments, “I’m just really enjoying helping and seeing people develop in their careers. If you want people to be outcome-focused, you have to bring them along in the journey – you have to empower them and inspire them to do that. It’s about setting the tone yourself, sharing stories of how you’ve achieved outcomes, how you’ve turned a negative situation into a positive situation to deliver for the community. And, it about communicating and building good relationships.”

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