New Waroona chief has big plans

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Murray shire president David Bolt, Murray-Waroona chief executive officer Dean Unsworth and Waroona shire president Mike Walmsley.
Camera IconMurray shire president David Bolt, Murray-Waroona chief executive officer Dean Unsworth and Waroona shire president Mike Walmsley. Credit: supplied

The new chief executive officer at Waroona Shire Council has hit the ground running, revealing big plans for the shire just over a week into the job.

After 12 years as the Murray shire chief, Dean Unsworth started as dual chief of Waroona and Murray shires on September 12 and has “absolutely” enjoyed the dynamic role so far.

He plans to reactivate several sectors of the region by pooling resources under the 12-month joint-chief trial arrangement.

Plans include boosting aged care, a broader South West food bowl and reactivating the Hotham Valley train to bring tourists from Perth via Dwellingup.

Top of the list, however, are plans to boost trails tourism by expanding on Murray shire’s work to draw interstate and international tourists to the region’s world-class trails.

“We could tie the Murray, Waroona and Collie trails to create a Peel-South West trails triangle,” Mr Unsworth said.

He highlighted mountain-bike and horse trails and four-wheel-drive tracks as ways of drawing “serious enthusiasts” to town.

“There are a lot of trails to ride in this area,” he said.

“The research shows trail tourism visitors spend twice as much than other tourists, so this can have real knock-on effects.”

Another tourism boost would be created by establishing Waroona as a day-trip option for time-poor interstate and international tourists and as an appealing weekend trip for Perth residents.

“There are three million people living right there,” Mr Unsworth said.

“If we can activate the Hotham to Dwellingup line, we could then work on a shuttle bus coming down to Waroona before taking them back to Dwellingup and up to Perth.”

He said the two shires had much in common and could use the strengths of one shire to boost weaker areas in the other.

“There are so many resources we can pool together,” he said.

Among these resources is the horticulture strip, which Mr Unsworth hopes can be further developed to boost export potential.

“If we all work together we could make a big South West food bowl which could service the Asian markets,” he said.

Other resource sharing would include servicing the ageing population in the region.

“By working together we would have a stronger case to lobby State and Federal government for more funding for this sector,” he said.

He will also drive a heavy focus on activating the main street and hopes for a grass-roots approach with an emphasis on community involvement.

“We would not stop trucks coming through, but make the street more inviting,” he said.

Mr Unsworth said shire staff would be consulting with the community over the coming months to develop a new strategic plan for Waroona for the next 10-20 years.

“We really want to hear from the community what they think we need to do in order to thrive,” he said.

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