Welcome to Business Minds, Simon. How did you come to call the beautiful Coffs Coast home?
I studied at UNE in Armidale and used to come down to the Coffs Coast to have a break from the cold weather. My wife (whom I met at UNE) and I, had always “earmarked” the region as a place we would love to settle. I managed to snag a job as a town planner at Bellingen Shire Council in late 2000, so we moved to the lush green Bellinger Valley from the hot, flat black soil plains of Dalby in Western Queensland, where the only place you could get a takeaway coffee was the local service station. To say I haven’t look back is an understatement.
Tell us about GeoLINK and what services you provide.
We are an environmental and engineering consulting firm that has been working in Northern NSW for around for 25 years. We provide an integrated mix of environmental and engineering consultancy services, including: town planning, ecology, environmental impact assessment, civil and environmental engineering, and urban and landscape design. We help our clients with the design, approval, construction and monitoring of their projects, and we are committed to finding the best social, environmental and economic solutions for their projects. Our consultancy service range expands from Newcastle to Tweed Heads, and we also work extensively throughout rural NSW too. We love what we do and have a fantastic team based in four office locations, including: Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Lennox Head and Lismore.
How has GeoLINK evolved over the past decade or so?
About four years ago we had a complete change in ownership and management of the company. The three previous directors retired and sold the company to the current owner: Simon Williams, Duncan Thompson and myself. There has been a big shift in the direction of the company since the change of ownership. We have really focused on improving the financial performance of the company and expanding into markets that aligned with our existing skill set, such as the agricultural industry. We’re lucky to have a team of very talented and respected professionals to help deliver this strategic change for not only us, but our clients too.
What interested you about a career in town planning, and what does a town planner actually do?
I get that question a lot … and I kind of fell into town planning. Like many who leave school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I read a bit about town planning and about UNE (University of New England) and Armidale and thought it looked OK. I was very lucky, I guess, that I grew to really like the profession.
As a consultant Town Planner, my main role is to assist individuals, developers and government agencies negotiate the rather complex NSW Planning System to get their projects approved. These projects can range from subdivisions, roadworks, hospitals, residential flat buildings, shopping centres etc. Town Planners also have an important role in Local and State Government, which includes development assessment and regulation and strategic planning.
Share with us one of your favourite projects you’ve worked on to date?
I have been doing a lot of work for NSW Heath recently in preparing Development Applications and Environmental Impact Statements for large hospital developments in regional areas. Hospitals are such important assets to regional communities, so it’s very rewarding work. We have just lodged development applications for a new hospital in Macksville and a major upgrade to the Coffs Harbour Hospital, which are both exciting projects for the Mid North Coast.
What are some of the trends you are seeing in your industry?
I think people are demanding a greater consideration of the environment and ecologically sustainable design in urban design. This is filtering through in some of the more recent developments we have been involved with, especially in the residential sector. Sustainability in its true sense of designing based on minimal impact to the environment, as well as designing to meet the current needs without compromising the future generation’s needs has become more prevalent in recent projects.
Living and working on the coast has its advantages. What are your stand outs?
Living in Bellingen has to be the stand out for me. It’s a small but vibrant community that has a great range of restaurants and bars, and, has arguably the highest ratio of coffee shops per capita of any town in Australia! I also love that it is only a 15-minute drive to the beach too.
Striving for a work/life balance is what every professional aims for. How do you master yours?
I am lucky in that I rarely work weekends. I think we all need two days to get away from the jobs we do.
If you could give a student finishing the HSC one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be too concerned about your first career choice – there will be many opportunities to change directions in your working life. So, just do your best for now.
My uncle used to say to me (and still does), “If you are not 10 minutes early – you’re late!”