Here we go again

Business as usual: Kellie O'Callaghan will enter 2023 as the re-elected mayor of Latrobe City. photograph liam durkin



ALWAYS good to have stability at the top.

Kellie O’Callaghan will carry the title of Mayor O’Callaghan for another 12 months, after being re-elected to the post.

Ms O’Callaghan won the vote 5-4 from fellow councillor Dale Harriman when council met on Monday, December 19.

There was also little to no difference in the overall hierarchy, with Cr Dan Clancy returning as deputy mayor.

The returning mayor and deputy are both east ward councillors.

With the new year upon us, Cr O’Callaghan is set to enter her third term as Latrobe City Mayor, and said she was looking forward to what 2023 had in store.

“Really excited about the year ahead, 2022 has been a big year because we have had a lot of our community gathering together again,” she said.

“We’ve seen a lot more events than we had in previous years, we’ve even seen some double-up events, it’s been a big year of the community celebrating.”

Cr O’Callaghan pointed to the opening of the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre, as well as the number of elite sporting organisations making their way to the region as particular highlights from the year.

That being said, the returning mayor did not shy away from the number of issues facing the region in the immediate future.

Of most pressing concern is the situation at Opal, the imminent closure of Loy Yang A and Yallourn Power Station, and just exactly how a returning SEC will be implemented.

Somewhat ironically, while this interview was being conducted at Latrobe City Council Headquarters in Morwell, a train from the paper mill travelled past.

“We really do need to consider what that means into the future, with the AGL announcements and changes to closure dates, we’ve been running a significant body of work and advocacy around what that means,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

“It has been a big year of advocacy, with elections in play, the need to ensure that our transition work is still strength-focussed, that we are still acutely aware of the economic adjustments that we are going to face and workforce challenges across the board.

“We’re fortunate in a sense though that in terms of transition-planning we did undertake a lot of our community-engaged work coming off Hazelwood closure, 2016 was probably that key point of the instigation of how we engage with community around their aspirations and what the transition looks like.”

Cr O’Callaghan was also confident in the future of the Latrobe Valley Authority.

The LVA is funded for another 12 months.

While council might not have a new mayor, Morwell does have a new local member.

Cr O’Callaghan said council would be working closely with Martin Cameron as he prepares to move into the office literally down the road.

“The nature of these things is you get changes from time to time, we’ll certainly be in contact with Martin Cameron to offer him our congratulations and extend to him the invitation to work with us,” she said.

“To see how we work in terms of amplifying the voice in the community and for us, understanding what he sees are the strengths he brings to the role so we can best work together.”

Council is also set to work very closely with another local member, as Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing, has picked up Commonwealth Games Legacy in her portfolio.

Although the Commonwealth Games are still four years away, the groundwork has already begun, and is expected to ramp up even further as the months tick closer to 2026.

Surely the sacred mayoral ‘golden shovel’, thought to only exist in myth, will be brought out for a major Commonwealth Games announcement in coming years.

In the meantime, Cr O’Callaghan said council will work hard to deliver on the Moe Revitalisation Project, further flood and storm mitigation, and facilitate health and wellbeing support for locals.

Council will also look to address the seemingly never-ending saga surrounding bypasses in the municipality, especially through Traralgon.

Naturally, with one-year mayoral terms leading to people jokingly saying that ‘everyone gets a go at being mayor’, Cr O’Callaghan said it was an honour to be re-elected.

“It is an absolute privilege to be able to do a consecutive term,” she said.

“I was also very fortunate last year to be chair of One Gippsland, deputy chairing Regional Cities, we had some really good pathways to participate within leadership in local government, so I’m just really grateful that my colleagues could see that there was some benefits of continuing.

“The really important part in all of this is Dan Clancy is an absolute delight to work with as a deputy. He is so generous, experienced, and skilled, but also so overwhelmingly capable of all elements of the role, you always know at any point in time if there are things you can’t physically do, he can just step in in a heartbeat.

“This councillor group are well and truly committed to this community, they love the community they live in and enjoy the work that they do.

“I know they are looking forward to next year and all those opportunities to engage.

“It will be a big year I have no doubt about that, it will look slightly different to last year because we don’t have the elections in the mix.”

With the stage set for council to launch into 2023, there could just be one thing left to do.

Replace the photo of the Queen in the meeting room.