Breaking free of the councilling tradition

26 Jul, 2001 07:12 AM
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NEWLY elected Boyup Brook shire councillor Simon Purse is not cast from the traditional councillors' mould.

To start with, at just 24 years of age, he's a good deal younger than other councillors tend to be, which could the source of his passion and enthusiasm.

Since returning to the 2300ac family farm to work with father Ian at the end of 1996, Simon has been keen to become involved in the community, and his successful election to the shire council on May 6 is his latest bid to do just that.

"There's no limit to the things you can do in this area," he said.

"We're in a really good position".

Both Simon's father and grandfather were Boyup Brook shire presidents, "but that's not the main reason I wanted to become involved".

Simon saw no point in waiting at least another 20 years before seeking election as tradition seems to dictate.

"It was something I've wanted to do," he said.

"I've got no other commitments at the moment, like family, so why wait?"

As part of this passion, Simon is a firm believer in young people becoming involved in the community and having a say in where it's going.

"Every town needs people like that," he said.

Simon also thinks that councils need to have better communication with the young people returning to town.

"The worst scenario is when people come back and see that nothing's changed, and so they leave again," he said.

Simon is quick to point out that he doesn't think that local council is politics, but rather a firm way to have a voice in his town for the duration of his four-year term.

"It also shows my commitment to staying here," he said.

"No one really believes that you are going to stay on the farm. It's not seen as a realistic option by a lot of people anymore".

Apart from the current season, Simon still thinks there's a strong future in farming.

"But farming's not like it was in the 1980s, and now more than ever it plays a pivotal role in the way a town in going," he said.

"If farmers are doing well, then the town is doing well".

Simon sort of fell into farming, "but you can't help what you fall in love with".

"I liked the idea of being in charge and working your own hours," he said, which includes sharefarming 2200ac at Wagin.

But since Simon has returned home, the property has increased in productivity and become more intensified as opposed to diversified.

Before he returned, sheep were run purely for wool and there was no cropping program at all, but in 1999, the first 300ha of canola were sown.

And along with the 5000 mated ewes and expanding cropping program, there are now also 4ac of vines, with the grapes sold to Galafrey in Mt Barker.

Simon was part of the New Rural Generation tour earlier this year, which he said he gained great benefit from, despite its critics.

"People made the comment that we could see the same things here in WA, but there you're not doing it as a group," he said.

"It's not so much the things you see, but the people you meet and the networks that you make".

Simon used the same analogy when discussing a recent Councillors Development weekend he attended, saying, "it's not always the content but the people that you meet, and to see how they're doing it successfully".

But he says problems can occur when only a handful of people in a community are willing to contribute, and then everyone wants to use them.

As testament to this, Simon is also part of the Shire Development Services committee, Townscape committee, Recreation and Leisure committee, is involved with the Boyup Brook Golf Club and is also a part of the local rural youth group.

"If you're working with good people then you can do anything, but it's hard finding the right people," he said.

However, he said he could see people around the area who, with a little encouragement, would be good for the town.

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