Diane Gray stands for Armidale Regional Council in September local government election

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The will for change in Armidale is palpable.

It’s on everyone's lips.

But what does change mean?

And what would it look like?

One woman, the latest candidate to put their hand up for September's Armidale Regional Council election, thinks she knows.

In fact, change is her business.

Diane Gray is executive director of Changing Change International, a consultancy firm specialising in bringing out the best in people to improve a business’ bottom line.

I asked Ms Gray what she would do if Council employed her to change its culture.

A consummate politician already, Ms Gray politely declined to answer.

But she did say it was important for businesses to choose the right culture.   

“You’re going to have a culture whether you want it or not,” she said.

“So decide what culture you want on purpose, because that’s going to determine the systems and the people that use them.”

Ms Gray has lived in Armidale for 18 years.

And she thinks the recent Armidale Guyra amalgamation is an opportunity for the whole region.

“Having something forced upon us, people have perceived that there is not a lot of choice,” she said.

“But I think that over the past 18 months we’ve seen that we have got quite a lot of choice.

“That choice can be opened up even more by having a healthy diversity in Council and I think that I can contribute to that.”

Building strength into the community should be top priority for the new council according to Ms Gray.

“The strong community, that’s got to be number one,” she said.

“To do that, we need economic growth and development, we need to grow businesses, we need to increase our population, we need to bridge the skills gap, and yet everybody says that.

“The problem is, that up until probably 18 months ago, we’ve not seen a lot of traction in those areas.

“Previous councillors have all said we needed growth and some are just as frustrated as people in the community that it didn’t happened.”

So how does the new Council achieve where previous councils have failed?

“It’s very clearly staying on track for the purpose that we’re there and not losing sight of that,” Ms Gray said.

“Being very clear on the strategic pillars we will be focusing on and stay on track on this, knowing that if we get bogged down, if there are unresourceful conversations happening, that we have the strength to pull each other up on them with respect and bring it back on track.

“Most problems happen with the conversations that don’t get had.”

Ms Gray said the new Council should implement their own performance indicators.

“We’ve got to set our self some KPIs,” she said.

“Not just as a councillor, but as a team of councillors.”

Ms Gray also said Council needed to help facilitate tourism growth.

“We have quite a lean tourism industry and yet with our assets … in the environment, in the people, in the innovation, that we’re able to develop, we could be putting Armidale region on the map, we could be putting the Armidale region on people's bucket lists.

“Guyra has great gourmet farming, for example U Goose.

“We’ve got the falls, we have the churches, we have Saumarez, we’ve got the foodies trail, let’s expand on that.

“There are all these great things, but how do we make that more cohesive.”

Ms Gray also said a rethink on the mall could make it a destination for tourists and the place to hangout for locals.

“Our mall can be so alive with speciality shops,” she said.

“But we need to change the way that we think about how we can do business in the mall.

“There is a great example in Guyra where you have High on Bikes and The High Country Wholefoods sharing a shop together.

“This complementary shop is a great initiative.

“How do we create something like the South Melbourne markets, where we have people that don’t need a whole shop, but they need a little bit more than a market stall.

“If we could get that type of flavour, I think it's quite attractive to the tourists as well because they get to see diversity in a small space - that's why people love markets.

Candidate nominations officially open on July 31 and election days is September 9.

“Armidale’s going to move forward when we’ve got a good bunch of people making great decisions for the region,” Ms Gray said.

“I want to be a part of that team.”


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