THE man appointed to run Goulburn Mulwaree Council for the next five years describes himself as an “open book.”
“What you see is what you get,” Warwick Bennett told the Post yesterday.
Following days of public speculation and salary negotiations, Mayor Geoff Kettle announced yesterday that the current Mid-Western Regional Council general manager was taking the helm.
The native New Zealander, who took out Australian citizenship in 2012, has replaced Chris Berry. He takes up the post on June 16.
He comes with a wealth of experience in local government administration, according to Mayor Geoff Kettle. Before his time at Mudgee, home of the Mid- Western Council, he was chief executive of Timpak Industries, a timber packaging business based in Hamilton, NZ with over 250 staff and a $52 million annual turnover.
Mr Bennett’s time in Mudgee appears to have impressed. The council took out the 2013 Bluett Award for excellence in local government.
It also won the Federal Government Excellence in Local Government Award in 2012.
There he also oversaw multimillion dollar projects including a sports stadium, sewer scheme, library and commercial premise.
He has also managed $10m worth of flood damage repairs, overseen marketing and promotion of major sporting events for Mudgee including the Trans- Tasman Touch Football Tests, the Parramatta Eels and the Country vs City NRL games.
Mr Bennett started out as an accountant for Strathallan County Council and has a Diploma in Corporate Management from Auckland University.
He was also the chief executive of Waikato District Council from 1993 to 2004.
This is the fourth largest council in New Zealand, covering 25,000 square km, with one of the largest road networks in the country. Here, Mr Bennett led a team of 160 people and managed an annual operating budget of $57 million.
Asked about the challenges ahead, the 58-year-old said local government was not that different across NSW and indeed Australia.
“The community wants councils to deliver good projects and processes,” he said.
“The community needs to have trust in Council and to do that I want it to be the best it can be.”
He has headed the Mid-Western Council for the past eight years which he said had been recognised as one of the best, if not the best local governments in NSW. In his first year, he managed to reduce expenditure by $2.5m without impacting on services, he said.
The Goulburn Mulwaree job was a chance to continue his career challenges.
“I have a passion to achieve,” he said.
“I still have the energy and I love coming to work. I’m in by 7.30 every morning.”
He’ll also be moving closer to family.
Mr Bennett’s wife, Ellen, has parents living in Canberra.
Their son, daughter and grandchild also live there. Another two adult sons live in New Zealand.
But the couple will live in Goulburn.
Their border collie is coming too.
“I’m a very strong advocate of the argument that if you’re employed by a local government area, you should live there,” he said.
Mr Bennett has already spent time in Goulburn and toured the villages in the past fortnight. He and his wife are returning in about three weeks to look for a home.
“It’s a fabulous town,” he said of Goulburn.
“It looks good and is tidy.”
Asked about his approach to the job, Mr Bennett said in the first few months he’d be keeping his ears and eyes open, learning from staff and meeting with “stakeholders” in the community about their impressions of Council and what could be improved.
He said councils should be run like a business and every dollar spent like it was one’s own.
“One thing I like to achieve is to cut out a lot of waste,” he said.
“…But you must also understand you are there to serve the community and meet their needs.”
Cr Kettle said Mr Bennett’s “experience and strong track record” was a deciding factor.
“I look forward to working with Warwick to continue to prosper GMC’s credentials as a leading regional centre,” he said.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Berry for his dedication to the job over the past five years and during the years he served prior to that as planning manager, going back to 2002. Goulburn Mulwaree has a bright future ahead of it and I thank Mr Berry for all of his hard work during his time at the helm of the Council.”
At an extraordinary meeting last night, councillors appointed Brendan Hollands as acting general manager until Mr Bennett assumes his role.