Geoff Hawkins is part of the Group A ticket with Peter Besseling. Geoff will be aiming to bring his extensive experience with him to the position of Councillor.
Tell us a little about yourself and why are you running for Councillor?
Whilst I have not lived in the area quite as long as some, I have been particularly fortunate the last three years to have been selected to be one of only two locals on the Risk and Audit Committee of the Council. This committee – now known as the Audit Committee – is independent of Council and advises and assists Council on Risk Management, Control, Governance and its external accountability responsibilities.
I was selected by Council to serve in this way because of my extensive background in business, mostly in senior marketing, general management and chief executive roles in service based businesses. During my career, and later as a business consultant, much of my time was spent in what are known as ‘turnarounds’ – the transformation of a business that has somehow lost its way and finds itself in serious difficulty. The transformation always involves my two pet specialities – organisational change and efficiency improvement.
I have become intimately aware of both the challenges and the opportunities that our Council and our community now face and I am concerned – as a risk expert – that our greatest risk is that the new Mayor and Councillors are not sufficiently skilled and experienced to steer and direct a large, complex organisation such as the PMHC. I am now, and always have been and always will be, a passionately independent, non-political person, and it was only after I met and got to know well the three other independents who comprise Group A – Peter Besseling, Robert Turner and Justin Levido – that I decided to join them and stand for Council.
The Community needs to know that I would not, could not, ever join a political party or agree to vote as a block. However, it is a great and uplifting experience to join with other people who, although from divergent backgrounds, think similarly and are so passionate about serving our community and leaving the area in better condition than we found it.
What are some of your polices leading into the next election?
My focus will be on efficient delivery of carefully prioritised services and projects. I want to see existing things fixed, working well and looking good before pushing too hard into (expensive) new projects. The exception to this is the airport upgrade, which in any event, is already well underway. It is a critical ‘must do’ project. I will also be a passionate supporter of upgrading and uplifting the educational facilities and opportunities in our area.
Because of my background and experience in organisational change, I am well aware that for this to occur and be successfully sustained, we must have complete transparency, honesty and openness between community, Council and bureaucracy.
The last critical ‘leg’ in the factors underlying and driving my attitude to policies is the preservation of our natural beauty and environment. It’s central to why we came here, stay here and want to proudly show others.
If you could fix just one pressing issue for the Hastings immediately, what would it be?
The Glasshouse operations, debt burden and management is top of my list. The first thing I want to see is the operations of the Glasshouse broken into three separate units – Community, Commercial and ‘Council’. This separation would extend down to the balance sheet and the profit and loss, so that both Council and the community know exactly the apportionment of assets, debt, income and expenses. Once we have this information, it is a much simpler task to look at each area and develop specific, practical plans to rectify the problems. Until we have that information, we are flying blind. This detail needs to be included in the annual accounts in a standardised format that effortlessly enables comparisons from year to year. Additionally, it MUST also be regularly communicated to the community in a clear, transparent form that is understandable to all.
Secondly, we know that the Glasshouse debt is currently around $23 million and that it is funded by a 20 year fixed term principal and interest loan. We also know that this loan has 16 years to run and that the interest rate is approximately 6.4%. The loan documentation needs to be reviewed in full to investigate the costs and ramifications of it being refinanced and/or replaced. Furthermore, the Glasshouse needs to be viewed as a valuable regional facility and, as such, is much more likely to be eligible for State and Federal assistance, especially in the form of interest free loans. When viewed as a truly regional facility, we need to look again creatively at what the Glasshouse could (should?) also be used for; an example is a Conservatorium of Art and Music in conjunction with a university.
What is your overall vision for our area heading towards 2020/2030?
It is no accident that I have already referred to the environment, the airport, the Glasshouse and education. They (along with road and health infrastructure) are the core ingredients in the mix to ensure that our region flourishes in the next few decades. In various ways, they also need to be carefully combined to ensure appropriate economic development, because that equals jobs. And my vision for the future is very much about job growth, job security and job satisfaction.
You’re running as part of a Group A. Can you tell us a bit about your group?
Our group consists of four independents. We are all unaligned and have no political agenda. However, what brought us together and binds us together are two things: firstly, we are all strong, skilled and capable individuals in our own right. However, the skill sets are not identical; they are complementary. When we sit down to discuss a problem, we each come at it from a slightly different perspective. That’s hugely powerful and valuable. It also helps that we have tons of mutual respect and are prepared to listen to alternative points of view.
Secondly, we are all, in our different ways, well connected to the community, and that feeds and underpins our common passion to serve. We share common values and have a common vision. To work together was an easy, natural decision. We also enjoy each other’s company and love what we are doing. A great recipe for success!
What’s something our readers don’t know about you?
I hold my old school record in athletics for the mile (4 mins 27 seconds) and in swimming for the 110 yards breastroke (72.5 seconds), and both records will never be broken. (They now only use the metric system – so I am safe!)
How can readers get in touch with you
Feel free to stop me any time when I am out and about.