With the New Year brings new plans, project developments and problems for local leaders to tackle and solve. This week, the Geraldton Guardian sat down with City of Greater Geraldton mayor Jerry Clune to get the latest, unravelling what he is working towards in 2024 in terms of budget and project timelines, and what big-ticket items could pop up in the near future. In October, Mr Clune won the mayoral election against incumbent Shane Van Styn by 285 votes, thanks to the new optional preference voting system, dethroning the outspoken and high-profile mayor of eight years. Mr Clune admitted he has kept a relatively low profile in comparison to his predecessor — who continues to comment on local government issues online — but that hasn’t distracted him from the task at hand. After resisting having a social media profile for some time, Mr Clune has launched a mayoral Facebook page and is improving his communication and information dissemination with the public. Former State Government staffer Jenna Denton, teacher and former councillor Peter Fiorenza and anti-vaccine mandate protester Aaron Horsman were elected to council, while existing councillors Butch Parker and Simon Keemink were re-elected. “You can’t have a slice of white bread council, you need a multi grain because it’s more healthy, isn’t it,” Mr Clune said, describing the make-up of the council. “You need diversity on council. It also makes us councillors respect each other’s opinions and work a little bit harder to convince councillors of a point of view.” For the city, this year’s toughest challenge will be getting its budget right. Mr Clune said planning will begin in a matter of months to prepare newly sworn-in councillors for the task ahead. “The whole process takes a long time to do because you’ve got to be thorough and there’s quite frank discussions within those times, but that’s good because councillors need to be across the financial aspect,” he said. “You have to marry up the expectations of what the community wants and the reality of keeping to your budget.” That was the most challenging part of being a mayor, Mr Clune said. A jetty for Geraldton is one project pushed by hundreds of people in the community, but the mayor said there were lots of other projects to consider first. “It would be a nice thing to have, but it wouldn’t be first on our list of priorities,” he said. With 2024 expected to be a campaign-driven year leading up to the State and Federal elections in early 2025, Mr Clune said the city formulated a “shopping list” of projects in the Mid West it wants to see given some attention. Priorities finclude upgrading the Mullewa hospital, improving power supply to the Mid West, sourcing a sustainable alternative water source for Geraldton and prioritising the North-South Highway Inner Bypass, rather than the outer bypass from Dongara to Northampton. In Geraldton, the construction of a new roundabout at Cathedral Avenue and Carson Terrace, relocating the croquet club to begin works on the bus interchange at Maitland Park and additional liquid waste ponds at Meru were some priority projects to be considered for funding. Mr Clune said he hoped there would be some budding politicians who would listen and splash some cash. “We’ve got a whole swathe of projects for both State and Federal and quite often they’re both linked ... but obviously needs a fair swag of Federal funding to make that happen,” he said. “We’ve yet to see any actually come to fruition, but there’s lots of promises.” One major project completed this month, which the former Federal Government provided $1.13 million towards in 2021, was the Meru Waste Facility Resource Recovery Station. Mr Clune said it was the city’s first attempt to bring recycling to Geraldton. “People can take their stuff up there and dispose of them in an orderly manner,” Mr Clune said. “It might be difficult for people who are used to coming, dumping and running, but we’re doing our best to try and not put so many things in the big hole, which is what the community seem to want.” Rate rises are inevitable, according to Mr Clune, who said the long-term plan suggested there would be future rises higher than the 3 per cent implemented in 2023-24. He said the city would try keep the rises to a minimum. “We’d all not like to have any rate rises, but the sheer fact of cost of living, cost of power, cost of fuel, it’s inevitable. We get to a point where we can’t absorb it all. We’ve really tried through COVID, I think we managed our city pretty well through all that. Now we’re back to building up a bit of momentum,” he said. In Mr Clune’s ideal world, he hopes the city receives planning applications this year, outlining what will one day replace the derelict Batavia Motor Inne. But more importantly, Mr Clune wants to see the site completely demolished and free from rubble. “I’d like to see some new development with its zoning potential and the size of it, but it’s a massive chunk of land to get up and get developed,” he said. In Tuesday Guardian, Opposition Leader Shane Love answers questions about what’s in store for 2024, in the lead-up to the State election.