Cockburn’s new councillors keen to get to work

New Cockburn councillors Tom Widenbar and Phoebe Corke.
New Cockburn councillors Tom Widenbar and Phoebe Corke.

Following their victories at the local government elections, the Cockburn Gazette spoke to incoming councillors Tom Widenbar and Phoebe Corke about their hopes for their time on council.

Raising the bar on waste management

AS a self-confessed “waste nerd”, Tom Widenbar is targeting innovative solutions to tackling environmental issues.

The new Cockburn Central ward councillor replaced Stephen Pratt and has declared his intentions to carry on the work of his predecessor.

Having tackled waste management during his lengthy stint with the Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC), Cr Widenbar said he wanted Cockburn to be a leader in minimising harmful environmental impacts.

“I’d like to see the revitalisation strategy for the lakes be re-implemented; it was last reviewed in 2017,” he said.

“I’ve worked in the waste industry forever. I want to continue to see us be groundbreaking in our waste management from our waste facility to our recycling and get towards a zero waste and landfill goal between 2035-55.”

At 28, he is younger than most local government councillors, but Cr Widenbar pointed to his time on the ERMC as an important learning experience which gave him insight into the operations of local governments.

“I looked after a lot of their environmental management from the waste facility and had a lot of input from councils and I was able to see good councillors were able to have a really big impact in integration with the public to shape and form the direction of a council,” Cr Widenbar said.

“I’ve worked on the implementation side, I know the space, I’ve written and reviewed policy. I’ve done the other side of it and understanding how all the pieces fit together, it’s going to be easier for me to step in.”

Cr Widenbar said he had no allegiances to any political parties and had run his campaign on a platform of apoliticality.

Outside of council, he described himself as a family-orientated car nut, having worked on a non-profit initiative which tackled hoons, and a fitness fanatic.

Corke eyes environmental progress

HAVING spent a great deal of her life performing on stage, it is hard to imagine new Cockburn councillor Phoebe Corke feeling daunted by public speaking duty at council meetings.

Since she was six years old, she has played the violin and, in addition to credits as a session musician, still gigs to this day.

Her interests in the arts is matched by a passion for the environment, which she says she will bring to council after being elected in the West ward, beating incumbent councillor Carol Reeve-Fowkes.

Cr Corke was a vocal opponent of Roe 8 and was part of the Wetland Watchers group and the Save the Beeliar Wetlands committee.

“I learnt the Flora and Fauna Management Plans by heart and learnt what the trappers and contractors were and weren’t allowed to do,” she said.

“I collated everything I saw, sent a report to the EPA every single day and as a result we ended up with a Senate inquiry, which we won.”

The Notre Dame University teacher is focused on emissions and sustainable development. She also supports moving Australia Day from January 26, a stance she understood may clash with council views.

“I’ve never celebrated Australia Day on January 26 and I never will,” she said.

“I’m not against Australia Day, it’s wonderful and we should celebrate this amazing country, but on a different day.

“I don’t understand the way people cling to that date when there are so many other days which would be utterly suitable.”

Having spent the best part of the past two months door-knocking, Cr Corke said she wanted to use her role on council to represent the public.

“I want to be a conduit between residents and the executive arm, the people who actually carry out the works.

“I want the people in the West Ward to feel they’ve got a voice. If they’ve got something they want done, I want to feel I was helpful and able to really communicate their needs and that would be the most gratifying thing.”

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