Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller reflects on 2020 and looks ahead to 2021

Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller at the construction site of the multi-purpose facility at Phillips Park in Lurnea.
Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller at the construction site of the multi-purpose facility at Phillips Park in Lurnea.

It has been a year like no other and with 2020 coming to an end, the Champion asked Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller to reflect on the year that was and look ahead to another busy 2021.

How do you look back on 2020?

It was the year the wonderful people of Liverpool showed their true resilience and generosity of spirit.

No sooner had we experienced the bushfires of 2019 and the flooding that took us into 2020 before COVID-19 struck.

We are such an important part of the future growth of Sydney and I know people are hurting out there. We are doing everything we can to help and I have been inspired by the acts of kindness and strength shown by so many.

Could you imagine the impact COVID-19 has had on the community?

A lot of people underestimated the effects the pandemic would have but I am not one of them.

We were No.3 in the nation for the numbers of people receiving JobKeeper behind the city of Sydney and the city of Melbourne.

The home-schooling period showed us that there are large areas of the LGA that have very poor access to wifi. That highlighted the importance of our excellent libraries to people who don't have the means to get through essential day-to-day tasks.

I am aware that council revenue is forecast to drop by $50 million by June 30 next year because of coronavirus.

People need the level of government closest to them more than ever. We are expected to be the engine room of Sydney's future growth. State and Federal arms of government must not forget about us now.

Remember that council has your back. We are doing everything we can to lead this city out of the coronavirus recession.

Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller

What would your message be to residents after a tough year of lockdown and restrictions?

Remember that council has your back. We are doing everything we can to lead this city out of the coronavirus recession.

We adopted a comprehensive resilience package - including a rates rebate and grants program - to keep businesses going, people in jobs and to ensure community members receive financial assistance to get through to the other side. We also adopted a discretionary approach to parking infringements and had a free parking permit system to support essential workers and local businesses in the city centre that continued to trade.

What have been some of your highlights of 2020?

Council never stopped working for the community even during lockdown. Many frontline staff members in Infrastructure and Environment, City Presentation and Customer Service kept turning up when others worked from home.

Rubbish collection, beautification of the CBD and its parks and many other important services kept on going.

We upgraded Apex Park to the tune of $1.9 million during the pandemic and we have made significant progress on the $16 million multi-purpose facility at Phillips Park in Lurnea.

Our libraries reopened after a relatively short period of closure as did the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. During shutdown they came up with an innovative digital program that engaged the community at the time they needed it most.

Council projects won several accolades this year.

The 2168 Children's Parliament won the Outstanding Project Promoting Social Cohesion and Community Harmony Award.

We also won the Local Government NSW Asbestos Management Award.

We won two Greater Sydney Planning Awards - Council's 'Local Jobs for Local People' initiative, established to encourage local employment growth through collaboration and by facilitating new jobs, career and education pathways, won the category of 'Planning for jobs and skills'.

The Liverpool City Centre Public Domain Master Plan, Council's 10-year plan to improve its city centre, was Highly Commended in the category of 'Place-based collaboration'.

Council Administration Officer Elizabeth Pirolo won the Young Achievers' Award in the 2020 Minister's Awards for Women in Local Government.

What event/activity have you missed the most as a result of COVID?

Our wonderful community events - Christmas and New Year's Eve have been downscaled as has Australia Day next year.

And of course our food festivals Liverpool On a Roll and Eat Your Heart Out. These are great community occasions and impossible to replicate online.

How important is it for residents to celebrate Christmas and the holiday period in a COVID-safe way?

It is most important at this time. I have always said that losing the ability to have contact does not mean we can't connect.

What can Liverpool residents expect in 2021?

It's going to be a year of recovery in more ways than one. I am hoping the gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions will bring renewed confidence to individuals, greater social connections and more grounds for optimism for our important local businesses.

I really hope 2021 brings health and a much better year than this one.

An artist's impression of Liverpool Civic Place. It is part of more than $1 billion worth of major mixed-use developments in the pipeline for the Liverpool city centre.

An artist's impression of Liverpool Civic Place. It is part of more than $1 billion worth of major mixed-use developments in the pipeline for the Liverpool city centre.

What are some of the projects that are in the pipeline for next year?

Demolition has begun at the site of Liverpool Civic Place, a wonderful community facility that will include new Council offices and chambers, a state-of-the-art library and childcare, public plaza and parking. Excavation day is scheduled for the first half of the new year. It's going to be a great asset for the community when it is finished by early 2023.

The $9 million Cirillo sporting Facility in Middleton Grange is expected to be completed in early 2021.

The $1.9 million Stante Reserve upgrade in Middleton Grange which will include a waterplay park, sun lounges and landscaped gardens, is expected to be completed by March 2021