One City, Diverse Places
Located in Perth’s north east, on diverse land stretching more than 1,044 kilometres, is the City of Swan – a hub of economic growth, commerce, and culture. The City is home to some of the fastest growing suburbs in the state, two regional centres, several national parks and reserves, many major commercial and industrial areas, and more.
“It’s a great place to live and bring up a family,” says Charlie Zannino, Mayor of the City. “We’ve got the benefits of both big-city and small-town living. The regional centre of Midland is strategically located just 10 minutes from the airport and 25 minutes from Perth’s CBD, so we have access to just about everything. At the same time, we enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and the natural beauty of the Swan Valley.”
Mayor Zannino has lived in the Swan Valley almost all of his life, and was first nominated and elected to Council in 1987. In the years before and since, he has seen the City continuously evolve, and continuously raise the bar on its potential.
One area that has gone from strength to strength is the popularity of the region as a tourist destination. Major attractions include the significant Aboriginal and European heritage sites in the area, as well as the “magnificent” Swan Valley. The Valley is the oldest wine region in Western Australia and this year celebrates 180 years of wine making. Today, the Swan Valley attracts more than two million local, national and international visitors each year.
“We have just about whatever you could ask for as a tourism precinct,” Mayor Zannino says. “We have a 30 kilometre Food and Wine Trail, and well over 150 attractions, including wineries, restaurants, cafes, and boutique breweries. And we have farm-fresh produce, with local producers growing produce on their properties and selling it at road-side stalls.”
“The Swan Valley has become known as ‘Perth’s Valley of Taste,’” he adds. “And it’s a very important part of the City of Swan. As a local authority, we take our commitment to building and supporting the tourism industry very seriously.”
The City of Swan’s allure was recently recognised at the Qantas Australia Tourism Awards, where it won the inaugural Local Government category. The City was one of only two WA winners in all 28 categories of the national awards. The City has also won the Perth Airport Western Australia Tourism Award for Local Government ever since the category was first introduced. Next year, they will be inducted into the WA Hall of Fame in this category.
“That means a lot,” says Mayor Zannino. “It’s very important to be recognised amongst your peers. And it means a lot not only to us, but also to the local businesses that operate in the Valley and the surrounding area.”
“If you’re a winemaker, and you win a gold medal for your wine, it will obviously do a lot for your business,” he continues. “And those awards do a lot for us. Not just for the City of Swan, but for all the local industries. Because they bring people out here, and it makes our small businesses more viable.”
In its submission for the Qantas Australia Tourism Award, the City highlighted its regional marketing, product development, interpretive infrastructure, and visitor servicing initiatives – all of which have been successfully implemented, Mayor Zannino says.
The City’s submission also outlined some of its many tourism efforts and initiatives, such as the Swan Valley heritage cycle trail and Food and Wine Trail, the award-winning Swan Valley Visitor Centre, and the new all-ages and all-abilities play area at Swan Regional Riverside Park. According to Mayor Zannino, those efforts all contributed to the City’s victory.
In the future, Mayor Zannino says the Swan Valley will only grow more attractive as a tourism destination. Currently, Main Roads WA is in the process of planning the Perth-Darwin National Highway (also known as NorthLink WA) – a project Mayor Zannino says the City has been lobbying for more than a decade. The current highway that services the north of Western Australia, called Great Northern Highway, runs through the middle of the Swan Valley tourism precinct, past a number of schools and through small town sites.
With the development of the mining and agricultural sectors up north, Great Northern Highway has had to service a steady stream of heavy haulage vehicles, creating traffic congestion, noise and safety concerns. This has been an obvious obstacle for tourism, Mayor Zannino explains.
“If you’re couple driving through with a tourism map, you don’t want a huge road train bearing down on top of you,” he says. “So we’ve been pushing for a new road to be built further to the west, to bypass the Swan Valley. Finally, after many years of lobbying at both a state and federal level, we’ve got them to recognise it’s an important project.”
Apart from redirecting the highway around the Swan Valley, the Perth-Darwin National Highway also opens up thousands of hectares of land for major industrial development. Mayor Zannino expects this will create a significant number of new jobs, particularly for people in Ellenbrook, the City’s second regional centre. Ellenbrook has developed rapidly in recent years, and has a current population of about 30,000 people.
“All those people have to travel to the City, or go north or west for jobs,” he explains. “If we can get this highway going through, and this land opened up for industrial development, then all these people will get jobs virtually on their doorstep. So it’s a very important project.”
Another important project for the City of Swan is the revitalisation of Midland, which is the strategic metropolitan centre in Perth’s north east sub-region.
“Midland has always been a major regional centre, even going way back,” Mayor Zannino explains. “They used to have major stockyards that served all the farmers from the nearby towns. They also had the Midland Railway Workshops. Back in the early 90s, however, the government closed the workshops down. Their closure led to the shutdown of the stockyards, and soon there was a lot of land there that was being unutilised.”
Together with the Swan Chamber of Commerce and other major players, the City of Swan lobbied the state government to put a redevelopment authority in place. In 2010, that goal was realised, and the Midland Redevelopment Authority – now the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA) – was formed. The City of Swan has been working with the MRA ever since to revitalise and redevelop the town centre.
“That’s been done very successfully,” Mayor Zannino says. “If you compare the area today to what it was back then, you’ll see it has really been transformed. We have new residential housing worth $1 to $1.5 million each, we have residential apartments, we have commercial and retail developments. We also have a new health campus coming, which is scheduled to open by late next year, and that’s going to make a huge difference.”
“Midland has really changed over the past five to 10 years,” he reiterates. “If you saw it 10 years ago and you saw it today, you wouldn’t recognise it.”
Mayor Zannino says the ultimate vision for Midland is to realise its rightful status as a major regional centre. That remains an ongoing process, but they are already well on their way. According to Mayor Zannino, the City of Swan as a whole is looking at an equally promising future, especially as the Western Australian state government starts to implement some local government reform.
The State Government’s plan is to reduce the number of local authorities in the Perth metropolitan area from 30 to 15, and an amalgamation is proposed for the City of Swan and the Shire of Mundaring – a local government area that covers an area of 645 square kilometres, and includes a population of more than 36,000.
“That looks like it might happen within the next year or so,” Mayor Zannino says. “Once it does, that’s going to make the City of Swan virtually one-third of the total metropolitan area in geographical size. We would be a very large and substantial council.”
“The City of Swan has a bright future ahead of it,” he adds. “We’ll be a leader in most areas. We have one of the highest growth rates, we have the most residential development occurring, and we have a very attractive place that we’re going to keep that way.”