Engineer of our success. Brighton’s general manager Ron Sanderson retires

BRIGHTON Council’s beloved general manager, Ron Sanderson is retiring at the end of this month after 15 years at the helm of Council, and a total 32 years’ in local government. In his time in charge of Council’s administration, Ron has much of which to be proud.

Described by many as the quiet achiever, Ron is admired and respected in local government circles throughout the state as a man who just gets things done without any fuss and with a calmness that exudes confidence in those who work with him.

Brighton Council's general manager, Ron Sanderson with his wife, Maureen
Brighton Council’s general manager, Ron Sanderson with his wife, Maureen

Recognition of his achievements and the respect with which he is held was given when last year he received the Local Government Association of Tasmania Meritorious Service Award.

Without a doubt, Ron’s leadership has been responsible for the exponential growth in the municipality in the past 15 years with new industries, business growth and housing developments making the municipality one of the fastest growing in the state and one of the most affordable communities in which to live.

Ron, an engineer by profession, began his career in Tasmanian local government as manager of technical services for the Circular Head Council in 1987 and remained in that position until 1993 when he moved to Brighton Council as manager engineering services.

He was appointed general manager on July 1 2005. At the request of the State Government, he also served as administrator of the Kentish Council for one and a half years and has worked for the Glamorgan/Spring Bay and Tasman Councils, as well as Circular Head and Brighton.

**Ron S and Tony F
Ron Sanderson with Brighton Mayor Tony Foster.
Governors visit 2019
Ron Sanderson with the Governor of Tasmania Kate Warner during her visit to Brighton municipality in 2019.
Community Blitz Opening 109
Ron Sanderson attends the launch of Community Blitz.

At the same time, Ron Sanderson made an outstanding contribution to local government affairs and has been a strong advocate for the Brighton Municipality to important stakeholders at local, state and national level.

In this time, Brighton Council under Ron’s leadership accomplished a number of key achievements with perhaps the biggest, the Municipality’s sewage effluent reuse.

One of the objectives in Brighton Council’s first strategic plan under Ron Sanderson’s management was to remove all sewage effluent discharge from the Derwent River by the year 2000.

An ambitious plan, however, with careful planning and the assistance of a Federal Government grant, discharge into the Derwent River ceased in December 1999.Brighton’s scheme was the first to discharge on farmland for beneficial reuse.

Some other major initiatives under Ron’s management were:

Water policy

Brighton Council was the first council in southern Tasmania to install water meters to all properties

Headwork charges

Brighton Council was the first local government authority in the State to impose infrastructure headworks charges on developments to fund water and sewerage headworks infrastructure such as water reservoirs and sewerage treatment plant improvements.

Software development and marketing

Brighton Council established Microwise Australia Pty Ltd to develop and sell software. This was the first corporation owned by any council in Tasmania. The software products, developed by Council and its partners are now being used by local government authorities throughout Australia and the South Pacific.

The cloud and SaaS

Brighton has become the first council to be entirely serverless which has improved performance, saved money previously spent on servers and high-powered computers, and improved security of information technology. Council has switched to a user-pays or rental basis, Software as a Service (SaaS), which is unique in the local government market.

A range of other major decisions that positively impacted the municipality included: 

Investment buildings MicroWise Australia Pty Ltd, bought a building in Bridgewater leased by the Hobart Gymnastic Academy and Council bought three properties in Old Beach for the Old Beach Cricket Club with two leased to Uniting Care to provide community services for Gagebrook.

Brighton racetrack: Brighton Council successfully lobbied government for all training to be located at Brighton. New tracks, stables and a swimming pool were built at the Brighton track and a lease agreement with racing authorities to operate the facility.

Transport Hub: In 1997, stage one of the Southern Tasmania Transport Hub was opened. Council invested in roads, sewerage and water infrastructure. Since then, Council has upgraded the major water pipeline. Brighton Council worked with the State Government to develop stage two and TasRail and TOLL Transport have since relocated there.

Brighton medical centre: When resident doctor’s surgery in Brighton closed, Brighton Council worked closely with the Federal Government to secure grant funding for a new ‘super clinic’. These funds were matched by Council to build a new surgery in Brighton, housing doctors and dental services.

Rating policy: Brighton Council has a fixed rating policy for dwellings, differential rates for other users and rate increases held to CPI or lower. Rate increases have been kept to CPI or below for 24 years.

Shared services: Brighton Council initiated shared services with other councils to use excess capacity and create a source of external revenue. The initiative resulted in a shared services joint venture comprising 14 councils, six of which are in the Northern Territory. Several other interstate councils are considering using the model.

Brighton Industrial and Housing Corporation (BIHC) and Centacare Evolve Housing (CEH): Brighton Council set up a corporation to develop parcels of vacant land into residential subdivisions for affordable house and land packages. Brighton Industrial and Housing Corporate (BIHC) signed an agreement with the Director of Housing to sell undeveloped housing land in the municipality. Thirty-three dwellings were sold in Bridgewater and Herdsmans Cove with a profit of $900,000 invested in municipality property. Other land was rezoned and subdivision plans developed are being developed by Centacare Evolve Housing (CEH) for affordable housing. This was a prelude to CEH’s affordable housing growth in the Municipality.

Bridgewater renewal: Council worked with a developer to sell the former run-down Civic Centre and buy land across Green Point Road resulting in a state-of-the-art Civic Centre, library, Woolworths shopping centre and major refurbishment of the former shopping centre. The Civic Centre is an important central meeting point for community groups and residents.

Brighton Bypass: Brighton Council lobbied the Federal and Tasmanian Governments to complete the $164 million Midland Highway bypass opened in 2012 after more than 20 years of planning.

Brighton streetscape: After the bypass was opened, Brighton Council was able to make major improvements to the road through the town. The township has been transformed from a bland thoroughfare to a vibrant village centre.

East Derwent Highway verge maintenance: Brighton Council and the Tasmanian Government agreed for Council to maintain the verges and roundabouts on the East Derwent Highway from Old Beach to Bridgewater. The Government provides Council with $55,000 annually with Council providing matching funds. Brighton is the only council with an arrangement to be in charge of highway beautification.

Brighton High School: Ron Sanderson worked with Brighton Mayor Tony Foster to encourage the Tasmanian Liberal Government to commit to building a new high school at Brighton and commit funds for a major upgrade to the Jordan River Learning Federation’s School Farm at Brighton. This promise was confirmed in the 2018 State Budget and work on both is now progressing. The new high school will act as a regional education hub for students from neighbouring municipalities.

Brighton Cricket Club: Brighton Council negotiated with Cricket Tasmania to enter a Brighton cricket team in its Premier League competition. After some years Brighton Eagle’s club was finally granted admission and in its first season Brighton Cricket Club won the League’s Third Grade premiership.

Ferguson Park Sports Centre and Weily Park Oval: Brighton Council received grants for the further development of the Ferguson Park Sports Centre at Pontville. The grants, totalling $7.7. million were not reliant on the election outcomes, so the project, planned by Brighton Council for many years, became reality. The funding is for new facilities, including a gymnasium, club rooms, meeting rooms, male and female change rooms, function space, dining and commercial kitchen and for the Bridgewater Parklands to cater to growing community needs. A further grant was for Weily Park Oval in Bridgewater.

Brighton Bowls and Community Club: Brighton Council encouraged the Brighton Bowls Club to expand to become a community club catering for everyone, not just the local bowlers. Council received a $400,000 Federal grant (matched by Council) for the new Brighton Bowls and Community Club.

Securing record grant funding: In the past three years, Brighton Municipality has benefited from more than $6 million worth of major project investments for the community as a result of significant successes in Federal Government grant applications. The record amounts of funding have all been matched by Council. The volume of public works projects has been unprecedented. The successful grants do not take into account Council-only projects such as Old Beach park and State Government grant-supported projects including the Old Beach Jetty, pathways and shelters upgrades and similar projects. If the Council-only projects are included, residents have benefited from an unprecedented works program. Council’s engineering, works and planning departments worked closely to identify several projects suitable for various grant programs: the Brighton Streetscape, Bridgewater Parkland, Pathways and Shelters, Cove Hill Bridge, Brighton Bowls and Community Club, Old Beach Jetty and the Cris Fitzpatrick Park.

The past decade has seen the Brighton community continue to benefit from significant improvements in the municipality’s residents’ quality of life, local services and amenities, as well as greater education, employment and recreation options.

Ron Sanderson’s leadership has ensured plans are in place for this to continue following his retirement. He came into local government with a commitment to creating an uplifted, dynamic, caring, and cohesive community. That vision is now a reality.